Teamed with post-travel blues and settling back into the New York lifestyle, defeating jet lag from my most recent getaway to Italy has been difficult, but definitively worth it.
Being that it was my first time to the famous boot of pizza, pasta, gelato, and [copious amounts of] red wine, I knew I would have an enjoyable time, but I also had no idea of the best places to frequent. I had done some research on social media and travel websites and magazines, and everyone knows the Colosseum is a must see, but when it came down to it, I discovered that the highlights of my trip were the least expected. When I travel, I prefer to learn the lifestyle of the locals, so it is no wonder I enjoyed the less crowded and less “touristy” locations.
I visited six cities in 9 days, so there was a lot of travel involved, which was tiring, however, red wine became like coffee for me. There is a saying we learned from our wine tour guide in Tuscany, David, that “a meal without wine is breakfast”. Cheers to that, David, I completely concur.
Each city I visited was different, yet all of them were beautiful in their own way. Everywhere you turn, every sight you see, is picturesque. No words or filter can justify how beautiful Italy is, so I will try my best to share my experience of my fall Italian getaway.
I flew into Milan, which to be honest was not thoughtfully planned out [being that I also booked my flight on a whim], as I did not spend a lot of time in this city. I did really want to see the Duomo (Cathedral; every city has one), but besides the Duomo, I did not really see much in Milan, which is probably a good thing because if I had, it would have been too dangerous, being that it is the fashion capital of the world. I would recommend visiting Milan if you are planning on shopping up a storm.
Interesting fact: Right by the Duomo, hawkers or loiterers approach tourists and put colourful string bracelets on their wrists, in exchange for change. I kept declining, but two men approached me and gave me some string bracelets “for luck and family”. I later found out the two I received [I dropped one] stood for liberty (white tip) and money (blue tip). A red tip stands for love. Two weeks later, I still have the two string bracelets on my wrist.
Florence was my favourite city that I visited on this trip. The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower was my favourite piece of architecture, as the detailing was so pristine. I would recommend viewing all the sights during the day, as well as at night. In my opinion, nighttime sightseeing is eerily magical, as there are fewer people around. I really took to laying on the streets of Florence and staring at the architecture.
We were informed that one of the best street sandwich joints in the world, All’antico Vinaio, was located near the Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio, so we crossed all those off the list on the same day. The sandwiches were literally the size of our faces, and made to be cut to two meals.
Following this deliciousness, we visited the Uffizi Gallery for an afternoon of beautiful art. My favourite pieces were by Sandro Botticelli, although these images do the paintings no justice. I also admired the detailing of the painted ceiling in the gallery hall.
Siena is a city inside of Tuscany, which I found wasn’t filled with as many tourists as any of the other cities I visited. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Siena, for the reason that I had no idea what to expect. We stayed in a house just outside of the city, and explored most of the city by foot and by car. The streets of Siena were wonderfully quaint, and we enjoyed our Campari Spritz cocktails in the Piazza del Campo square.
On our second day in Siena, we drove to the Fattoria Il Piano vineyard to do a wine tour. We learned a lot about wine and how it is produced, and then of course, proceeded to drink aforementioned wine. The image below is of an underground cantina, which was very cool – the bricks were produced in a town nearby, and the workers who built the cantina had to carve out all the soil underground, in order to create this sanctuary for the wine.
Seeing how knowledgeable David was in his expertise of wine made me consider quitting my day job and move to Tuscany to train to become a sommelier and work in a vineyard. I would not say that this idea is off the cards.
Following the wine tour, we explored San Gimignano, a small town within Siena, which was one of my highlights of this trip. Deemed the “Town of Fine Towers”, the views in San Gimignano were scenic [no filter needed]. With a Campari Spritz in hand, we walked to the top of a tower and watched the sun set over the incredible skyline.
I was very excited about Rome, prior to visiting. I had heard the nightlife was great, and the rumours were not false. Each night we joined the young crowds at Campo di Fiori and Trastevere and enjoyed being surrounded by merry laughter, whilst sipping on chianti. The thing with Italy is that a lot of people drink socially, without the intention of having to get heavily intoxicated, and I found it refreshing to see people enjoy alcoholic beverages in the public areas, without causing a fuss. David had mentioned many Italians try their first alcoholic beverage at a young age [“around three years old”], so their standard of social activities may be more responsible.
Again, I enjoyed sightseeing by night, in Rome. The Trevi Fountain and the Tiber River were my favourite sights. I literally gasped when I saw the Trevi Fountain. I also made a wish – you have to put your right foot on the water, and toss a coin over your left shoulder. In fact, I was fortunate that I visited Italy the time I did, as the Trevi Fountain had been down for maintenance over the past year and a half.
Of course, I had to see the Colosseum for myself, and it was astounding to think of the history of the amphitheatre, but honestly, in my personal opinion, all the tourists’ selfie sticks took away from the atmosphere, for me. That’s not to say it wasn’t still incredible to be there.
My friend Nicky, who I was traveling with, had been to a great restaurant – Trattoria Grotta Amatriciana – and she recommended the bruschetta, so of course I had to try it for myself. Both pastas were delicious as well, and evidently, we teamed it up with red wine. I also tried Grappa for the first time, which surprisingly, I didn’t find too potent.
Vatican City is inside the territory of Rome, but is considered a city of its own, so that I shall count it as. I am not religious [more spiritual], but of course, I had to visit Vatican City, while I was in Italy. What I was most excited to see was the Sistine Chapel. It truly is a wonder to think that Michaelangelo painted the interior, all by himself.
By the time I reached Venice by train, from Rome, I was exhausted but still looking forward to seeing this city. I spent half a day wandering the streets of Venezia, by myself, and the views were as I had expected.
It was wonderful enjoying my last proper meal in Italy by the Grand Canal. I wanted to dine at a restaurant that was away from the tourist attractions, but most of Venice itself is a tourist hub. Despite the fact that wading my way through the crowd like a true New Yorker tested my patience, Venice is beautiful in that I thought I would get lost walking around without a map or GPS [I’m terrible with navigation anyway], but I found myself walking back through the same alleyways, which made me realise that Venice is quite small – or at least, the area by the Grand Canal. The alleys are tiny, which I found all around Italy, but the buildings in Venice were a lot shorter. Again, the streets were beautifully quaint.
I wanted to make the most of my short time in Venice and being the romantic that I am, as soon as I knew the sun was about to set, I made my way to the ports, to watch the sunset.
For those that have never been to Italy before, I strongly recommend putting it at the top of your travel bucket list. I fell in love with the cities in a way I’ve never felt before. I was enticed by the architecture, and exploring the sights at night, when there were no crowds. Never have I felt so genuinely sad to leave a holiday destination [I almost cried at the airport]. The cities I visited were perfect during the fall season – I was also told by a few that I was lucky to encounter such perfect weather, as some cities such as Florence are known for bad thunderstorms. To me, this was my taste of Italy, so the next time I visit, I have more to explore and I am already planning a South Coast trip for next summer. This trip was certainly an adventure of a lifetime, and one I will look back on until my next trip.