From the walks alongside the canals in Venice to the majestic Rome and its culinary tradition, passing through the beauty of Florence.
Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and not just because we are Italians! It is the perfect destination for everyone, spanning from the beautiful Dolomites to the clearest blue of the Mediterranean waters, full of millennial art and history. Everywhere, it is always different from where you have been before. Every region has its culture, tradition, food and wine! No need to mention the usual food suspects (e.g.: pizza & pasta), in this post, we will bring you to discover some more local specialities.
Discover now the 10 tips that will make you wish to book a flight to Italy
Italy is arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the world and not just because we are Italians!
We called the ‘classic Italian tour’ the visit of Venice, Florence and Rome.
We consider this tour be the experience of a lifetime for someone visiting Italy for the first time.
1. Venice and its canals (the door to Italy)
People from abroad, often consider Venice the symbol of Italy. We could argue for hours without getting to a conclusion on what is Italy’s best representation.
However on one thing, we can agree: if you are travelling to Italy, you can’t miss Venice.
Venice is a great place to start a classic tour of the boot-shaped country: from the North, slowly descending to the South.
Venice is unique in the world and located on a lagoon across a group of 118 small islands. Bridges connect the islands and canals separate them.
This means that there are no cars and the only way to move around is using a boat or your own two feet.
As a result, Venice is a place to discover on foot and get lost in the beauty of all the small streets (called ‘calli’) that are everywhere.
Beautiful palaces and buildings will surround you at every step.
You can choose in between many options to get to Venice from the north east of Italy, with bus or train connections even from far away.
If you decide to fly directly into the city airport ‘Marco Polo’ and sleeping in the city centre, I suggest opting for the boat service.
Approaching Venice by water will leave you speechless and it is a unique experience.
I have tried it the last time and I was the only Italian among English tourists. I could see everyone sticking their noses to the window and admire a view they were probably not expecting as beautiful as everyone says.
Venice has a lot of good and relatively cheap B&B in the centre, they are the best starting point to wander around with not too much hassle.
However, for a cheaper option, there is an ample part of the city that is on land. That will enable you to reach the city centre easily via water, road, train or public transport.
2. Venice – Santa Maria della Salute
Make sure you spend at least 3 days in Venice. This will give you enough time to move away from the traditional 1-day-packed- touristic path from the train station up to San Marco square.
In this way, you will be able to take your time to visit a beauty like Santa Maria della Salute (the Salute), located at the end point of an island and directly facing San Marco (Saint Marks’ square) on the opposite side of the Canal Grande.
Oh and do not forget to enter in the main churches that you will find on your path, as they are packed with artworks.
Top tip for Saint Mark’s Basilica: avoid the never ending queue and book your visit in advance .
It is so worth it, don’t miss it!
3. Venice – Bridge of Sighs (in Italian: Ponte dei Sospiri) and gondole
Who has never dreamt of navigating on a traditional gondola under the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs)?
The bridge is just a few steps from Saint Mark’s square and its stunning Basilica.
Its name comes from the history when it was connecting the interrogation rooms at Doge’s Palace to the new prisons.
The convicts were having the last glimpse of Venice on this bridge before being taken to their cells, hence sighing knowing their fate.
Below the bridge, the gondole (plural for gondola) move slowly. The traditional Venetian black boat is still probably one of the favourite picks for wedding proposals and a ride is indeed expensive. However, its charm is indisputable.
Gondolas have always been connected to romance, however, for those of you who like action, watch James Bond’s Moonraker.
You are going to see them with different eyes!
And what is best before watching a movie? An unforgettable dinner off the beaten path, head to Il vecio fritolin .
The restaurant has a traditional Venetian menu and if you are travelling in spring or autumn, ask for a deep fried moeche (soft crabs).
They are a delicacy of the lagoon, but available just for a few weeks every year.
4. Venice – Burano
Aside from the central group, Venice stretches further into the lagoon where some other major islands are just a boat trip far and really worth a visit.
They are all easily reachable by public ferry transport and very different from each other.
If you like the Venetian glass handicraft, you can head off to Murano, as this is where the main production is.
You can book a guided tour to know more.
If you love cinema and are in Venice in early September, you would probably want to try and go to the Lido to spot celebrities.
But if you are up for a lovely stroll on a sunny day, I would recommend travelling to Burano.
Burano is famous for lacemaking and you will adore the colourful houses around the small canals.
When you are hot and tired, stop by at one of the many bars and request a traditional Aperol Spritz with some crisps and olives.
That is typically Italian and will set you apart from all the other tourists!
5. Florence – The Cathedral (Santa Maria dei Sospiri)
Once you will have managed to leave Venice, catch a fast train and head south towards Florence.
Put on your hiking boots and be prepared to walk a lot, as it is definitively the best way to enjoy it.
Located in the stunning Tuscany, Florence will be a perfect travel in itself but could also be the right starting point for a countryside drive trip on board of a Fiat Cinquecento.
Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and it is a good idea to start your exploration from the cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore).
Begun in 1296, it was completed only in 1436. The dome was engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi and the whole complex in the main square includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s campanile.
If you are travelling in summer, get ready for a torrid climate and try to avoid tank tops, short skirts or shorts if you are planning to visit any religious places. Respect the tradition and avoid the risk not to be admitted!
If you have packed nothing more than beachwear in your luggage, don’t panic: Florence, like any other Italian city, has among the best boutiques in the world. If your wallet is light, don’t worry again, you always have the option to get a simple plastic tunic to cover you up and visit.
6. Florence – the artworks (Uffizi, Palazzo Vecchio)
Florence has a treasure in art like few other cities in the world. A visit to the Uffizi Gallery, home to Botticelli’s birth of Venus and many more artworks, is certainly an unmissable experience. Get ready for a long day because it is huge, and as usual plan and book your tickets for Uffizi in advance.
Another must go place is Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) in Piazza della Signoria in the city centre, where you will also see the famous statue of David Be aware and impress your friends: this is just a replica whilst the original one is in the Galleria dell’Accademia.
Whilst you visit Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), try and resist the temptation to do shopping. If you’ll end up with new Italian leather bag, rest your guilt feelings by crossing the river and relax in the gorgeous Boboli Gardens.
A good break from the steaming heat.
7. Florence – the Antico Vinaio
Like every other place in Italy, Tuscany has its own culinary tradition and the food is delicious.
In Venice, you probably have indulged in fish.
In Florence, it is finally time to taste meats (the ‘ciccia’). The whole region is, in fact, famous for both the cold meats and the superb quality of their beef.
Hence when travelling these places make sure you try a traditional Fiorentina (Florentine steak), go for the thick cut and medium to raw cooking.
And if you are in the mood for pasta, go for pappardelle (egg made pasta) with wild boar ragout sauce.
For a delicious and cheap lunch stop at the All’Antico Vinaio and ask for a sandwich (schiacciata – be aware it is pronounced ski-ah-CHA-tah!) with their amazing cold meats and cheese.
In true Italian style, they have a full counter you can choose from and mix.
They also offer a deal with a glass of house wine.
If you are looking for wine tasting search for “enoteca” – the italian word for winery.
8. Rome – St. Peter (San Pietro)
And when you think you have seen it all… That’s the time you get in Rome.
Quick and easy travel of fewer than two hours with the new speed trains (Le Frecce) from Florence, Rome is the capital of Italy.
The eternal city has been there for 2770 years and counting.
And whilst I am not sure it is the most iconic city in Italy, for me, it is, without a doubt, the most beautiful.
If Venice is unique because lying entirely on water, Rome is the constant coexistence of old and new. From Roman antiques to modern buildings.
And we have not yet mentioned the Pope. Vatican City is a fascinating place cast in the city centre.
If you wish to see the Pope, plan your visit carefully to avoid the mass of people waiting for him. Have a look at this website for more info.
All the walking during the day will probably tire you out, however, keep your energies and don’t miss Rome late at night.
One day my flight landed with a long delay and I found myself touring in a taxi at 3 am.
The Coliseum and the Imperial fora are unbelievably magic, at night and the silence of the city asleep will capture you.
9. Rome – Castle of the Holy Angel
If you walk all your way to St. Peter’s Church from Piazza Venezia and through Via del Plebiscito and Corso Vittorio Emanuele (my favourite!), you will spot Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) on the right when crossing the Tiber.
Castel Sant’Angelo has a long story to share and now hosts a museum.
For opera lovers, Castel Sant’Angelo will ring a bell, as the final part of the Tosca takes place here.
10. Rome – Navona Square
A serious visit to Rome should take nothing less than 5 days.
There is simply so much to walk, see, explore, visit and try, that you will need that time.
For those of you who have to rush, I am going to share my favourite walking tour in the city centre.
Flat shoes on, kick off at Pantheon and walk all your way to the stunning Piazza Navona, before continuing up until Piazza di Spagna.
Have a light lunch in this area and then spend the afternoon at Villa Borghese gardens for some relax.
In the evening, move back to the Pantheon and continue a bit further up to the Jewish ghetto.
Stop there for dinner trying deep fried carciofi alla Giudia (artichokes) and then tuck into another Roman traditional dish.
You can choose between pasta ‘alla carbonara’ (egg and guanciale sauce, where guanciale somehow reminds of diced bacon but it isn’t!) or ‘cacio e pepe’ (cheese and black pepper). Have dinner outside, it is just another part of the Italian experience that you cannot miss!
What you see is so incredibly beautiful that you will not mind coming back.
Every time it will still give you that thrill.