By Gale Bowman
Last September, I was fortunate to visit Italy during an amazing twelve day trip that consisted of stops in multiple cities via train, car — and even boat!
Of the many options available for a Europe Vacation, Italy is one of the most popular for a reason; it offers a wealth of history, culture, and attractions to suit the tastes of just about everyone. While most any itinerary to Italy can be fabulous, it pays to talk with others who have already been there. If you were to ask me for my two – or ten – cents on planning a great Italy vacation , here’s what I’d share…
Top 10 tips for a perfect Italy vacation
1. Look into flying in and out of Rome (Fiumicino Airport), which is typically cost-effective compared to other options. Consider calling the airline several weeks before you depart to see if you can select your seats; otherwise, you may show up at the airport and get a middle seat for a nine-hour flight!
2. Spend a few days in Rome (which is nowhere near enough time to see everything you’ll want to see, but it’ll at least give you a flavor for the capital city). My favorite sites in Rome include the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, Trastevere (a medieval neighborhood just west of the river that runs through the city), and just about every piazza I wandered into!
3. The Vatican is worth a visit if you have time, but make sure you buy your ticket online well in advance. If you don’t, you’ll wait in a HUGE line outside. I used a guidebook instead of purchasing a tour at the Vatican because the tours were sold out by the time I reserved a ticket online. I hear that the tours are very helpful if you’re able to book one.
4. Tuscany is a must-see! If I were to return to Italy, I would plan a week in Tuscany – trust me, this is going to be a highlight of your trip. Be sure to rent a car so you can drive through the tiny towns sprawled along the Tuscan hillside. Stop in Lucca for an afternoon and rent bikes to ride along the old city walls. Check out the old skyscrapers in the medieval town of San Gimignano, and ask for a room with a view of the countryside if you stay the night. Other highlights in Tuscany include Sienna, Pisa, and tons of castles, wineries, and medieval hamlets.
5. Florence is also a popular city in Tuscany, but you don’t really need a car to get there. Train travel to Florence is fast and affordable, and you can easily take a cab or bus to your hotel. Il Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, and Michelangelo‘s David are must-sees, but my favorite site in Florence is a sunset trip to Piazza Michelangelo, which overlooks the entire city.
6. If you can make it to Pompei during your trip, you won’t be sorry. I was absolutely amazed by how much of this ancient city still remains. I highly recommend renting an audio guide before you check out each villa and building — hearing the stories of the city’s inhabitants is fascinating.
7. One place I would not recommend is the Island of Capri. Don’t get me wrong — Capri is beautiful! However, it’s quite a difficult trip to get there, as you have to take a train to Naples, a bus to the port, a ferry to the island, and then another bus to your hotel. You’ll spend half a day getting to Capri, which is a self-proclaimed tourist trap. My advice would be to skip Capri and spend extra time in Tuscany or check out cities like Sorrento along the Amalfi Coast (which I hear is just as beautiful as Capri).
8. Eat gelato as much as you can!
9. Visit several wineries, and make sure you take your allotted two bottles home with you. You can take more, but you may be assessed a tax.
10. If you are planning to visit Italy for more than seven or nine days, consider packing light and finding a laundromat where you can wash your clothes halfway through your trip. I did this in Sienna, and I was very glad that I didn’t have to lug a huge suitcase during my entire Italian experience.
Italy is a beautiful country, and the people are very accommodating even if you don’t speak the language. If you’re looking for a great Europe vacation, it’s hard to go wrong with a trip to Italy.
Gale Bowman is a strategy analyst for Orbitz Worldwide. She first travelled to Europe while studying abroad in London during her junior year at Notre Dame, and she hopes to continue to visit every few years.