Ciao! Welcome back to Wandering on Cloud Nine! Over the summer, I visited Italy and let me tell you, it was absolutely beautiful there. Every corner of Italy has history that dates back to many centuries ago. It blows my mind that most buildings in Italy are hundreds of years old and still in great condition. As much as I love San Francisco and all of it’s high-rise buildings, it was a nice change of scenery to be a amongst cobblestone streets and old buildings for once. My family and I tried to live like the locals, and not like the stereotypical tourist, so we stayed in an apartment instead of a hotel. Instead of always eating out, we bought ingredients from the local grocery store or the farmers’ market and we tried learning some basic Italian phrases. I think the thing that drew me in the most in Italy was the rich culture. I went to 12 different cities in Italy and all of them are gorgeous, but Venice, Verona, Florence, and Rome stole my heart.
Venezia – The Floating City
I had a good first impression of Italy because Venice was the first city I visited in the country. Fun fact: Venice has exactly 177 canals and is split into 117 small islands! Everything there was just breathtaking. Seeing the canals and the different old buildings around the city was amazing. On the first day, we did a lot of walking (since there are no cars in the city) and it was so tiring. If you ever go to Venice, be ready to walk a lot! I also went on a tour and learned more about the history of the city. Other than the tour that day, I went on a gondola ride! (Riding a gondola has been my dream ever since I saw the cool gondola rides at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.) I rode an actual gondola in the actual city of Venice, which makes my dream 1000 times better.
By the second and third day, we were able to buy a pass for the waterbus. The waterbus acts like a bus, but it’s actually a boat that uses the canals, since there are no roads for regular cars and buses to pass. Through those waterbuses, we went to two other islands near Venice, Murano and Burano. Murano is known for its beautiful glass and Burano is known for its lace. I personally liked Burano better because there are these very colorful houses near the main canal there and I loved it so much!
MUST SEES: Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica, Rialto Bridge, San Marco Campanile, Grand Canal, Burano
Verona – The City of Love
Verona was actually my favorite Italian city out of all the ones I visited. I was only there for a short amount of time, but I saw most of the sights. Verona is a small city, but it is an absolute gem. Verona is the setting for one of the most popular tragic dramas, Romeo and Juliet. You can actually visit Juliet’s house in Verona and you can see the famous Juliet statue and the balcony! There is also a wall in Juliet’s house that people can write their names on and it looks so cool.
I think my favorite part of my trip in Verona was seeing the sunset from the Castelvecchio Bridge. This was one of the first sights I saw in Verona and I was in love (haha get it?). We were very lucky to be renting an apartment near the Piazza Bra because it’s the most popular piazza (plaza) in the city! Near the Piazza Bra there’s the Arena di Verona, which is like a smaller version of the Colosseum, but equally beautiful. On the second day, we went further out of the “downtown” area and went up to the Piazzale Castel San Pietro (it overlooks Verona, kind of like Twin Peaks). The lookout was gorgeous, the view was like a postcard. The trek up was definitely worth it!
MUST SEES: Casa di Giulietta, Castelvecchio Bridge, Piazza Bra, Piazzale Castel San Pedro, Adige River
Firenze – The City of the Renaissance
There is so much to see in Florence, from the sights to the museums. I would say you would need more than three days to go around and see almost everything. Florence is where the Renaissance started, so there are so many wonderful pieces of art around the city. Some of the most famous museums in the world are located in Florence, like the Uffizi Gallery (which houses the Birth of Venus, The Madonna in Majesty, and Primavera) and the Accademia Gallery (which houses David, Michelangelo’s Slaves, Cassone Admiri). Make sure to get tickets beforehand to enter the museums since the lines are long! Other than the museums, there’s the Florence Cathedral, which reminds me of a gingerbread house because it’s covered in red and green patterns. The cathedral is so beautiful and I wish I was able to go inside, but we had no time.
We also went to see the local food market at the Mercato Centrale Firenze. On the bottom floor was the food market, where there were many different stands with different types of food and on the top floor there was a high-end food court. Don’t be alarmed with high-end though because a lot of the food sold there are affordable and delicious! In the end, my favorite place in Florence was probably the Piazzale Michelangelo, which had a panoramic view of the city. We watched the sunset from there on our last day in Florence (if you can’t tell, I’m really into sunsets).
MUST SEES: Uffizi Gallery, Accademia Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Il Duomo di Firenze, Giotto’s Campanile, Mercato Centrale Firenze, Piazzale Michelangelo
Roma – The City of Ruins
What’s a trip to Italy without going to Rome? I literally just had to walk around the block from my apartment to see a beautiful and ancient church. Everywhere you turn there’s probably going to be an ancient building or a fountain right in front of you. The apartment that we rented was so close to one of the most famous plazas in the world, Piazza Navona. It has three beautiful fountains and the most amazing tartufo ice cream. We also went to the colosseum. I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe I was going to see one of the most famous landmarks in Italy. There was this cool, but creepy vibe in the colosseum. Other than the creepiness, it was so cool to see where gladiators used to fight thousands of years ago.
I also went to the Vatican, where the pope lives. Me and my family first went into the Vatican Museums, which contains the Sistine Chapel. It amazes me how Michelangelo was able to paint the entire ceiling. Other than the museums, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica. I went up to the dome of the Basilica and going up there was so tiring. The stairs were never ending and were also so small, so if you’re afraid of heights or you’re claustrophobic, I don’t recommend making the trek up. The view up there was gorgeous, I would say the hike up was worth it. I would probably not do it again though because just thinking of going up there tires me out!
On my last day in Italy, I went to see the Trevi Fountain. I think I was most excited to visit the Trevi Fountain because of the Lizzie Mcguire Movie, but it was way prettier in person than in the movie. All the statues around the water are so fascinating because of all the detail in them. However, I do suggest being especially aware of pick pockets at the fountain (because they prey on the large amounts of tourists that come here each day).
MUST SEES: Piazza Navona, Colosseum, Fountain di Trevi, Musei Vaticani, St. Peter’s Basilica, Pantheon, Campo dei Fiori Market, Spanish Steps, Complesso del Vittoriano