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  • Writer's pictureThe Killorans

10 Days in Italy

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

From the ancient Roman Forum with ruins thousands of years old to the lush rolling hills of Tuscany, Italy can quite literally take your breath away. If it's your first time in Italy and you're planning a 10-day trip wanting to experience both the major highlights of the historical background as well as an adventurous food and wine-driven couple of days, we are sharing our favorites from our visit to Rome and Florence.

Everyone travels differently, which is what makes travel so beautiful. Whether you plan for relaxation, museum hopping, finding neat restaurants you saw on that one foodie show, or simply wish to wing it, Italy is easy!


There are a few things we would recommend looking up in advance before arriving in Italy:

  1. Cellular Data & Google Maps. It cannot be stressed enough at how amazing and affordable mobile cellular travel is these days. Most phone providers have an International Pass that allows you to use your typical data plans for just $10 a day. It's fantastic! It makes navigating around extremely easy which really can relieve a lot of that travel stress we all tend to feel when outside of our comfort zones.

  2. The Trains are Super Easy. We recommend looking (and potentially booking) tickets ahead of time as they can often times cost a little less up front. But trains run multiple times every day between major cities. https://www.italiarail.com/

  3. Museums and Monument Tickets. Some attractions can require or will highly recommend that you book tickets ahead of time. Case and point, at the Colosseum, you could spend at least an hour waiting in line for tickets. We bought our tickets literally the day before, reserved our time to go in, and the morning of we simply walked right up when it was time and got in immediately. And we're so glad we did because the line only got longer as the day progressed. Also, be aware that at a lot of tourist attractions, there are "tour groups" that will advertise that they can help you "skip the lines" and will offer their services as a tour guide. We have seen and heard of some people getting great experiences and others absolutely terrible ones, so purchase tickets at your own discretion.

  4. The Pharmacies are Amazing. Both of us felt a bit run down and got a little sick on our trip, but Italian Pharmacies are super helpful and easy. You just let them know what's wrong and they'll get you exactly what you need. Don't be afraid to stop in whether you need anything from cold medicine to cough drops to foot pads to help with your blisters (trust us - we did it all).

  5. Decide what locations excite you the most and just GO! Life is too short not to travel, to try new cuisines, experience new cultures, challenge yourself to try new things. So plan a trip and ENJOY!

 

First Stop: The Ancient City of Roma

aka Rome.

Travel time: 4 days

Many say you can see Rome in just a day or two, but we spent 4 whole days here and were able to see exactly what we wanted without having to rush from one side of the city to the other all in one day. If you're planning to walk everywhere, it really does take a while to get around. Just remember to pack your comfortable (not just stylish) shoes!


Hotel Accommodation

The first step you should take is to figure out what area of the city you want to stay in. Whether it be in walking distance to Vatican City or the Roman Forum or near fabulous shopping or just close to the public transportation, we find it best to sort out our tentative highlights before going to ensure the place we select to stay will be convenient as well as comfortable and relaxing. We like to find one-off places, typically a boutique hotel, near some sort of public transportation hub (subway or metro stations), especially if we don't rent a car. In Rome, The Nerva Boutique Hotel became our home away from home! Not only was it right across the street to the Roman Forum, it was quaint, had the most helpful and nice staff, a wonderful breakfast spread, and fabulous recommendations (some of our favorite restaurants came highly recommended by the hotel). We would stay again here in a heartbeat!


Tourist Sites

There is a plethora of things to see and do in Rome, it just depends on how much time and how deep in history you really want to dive into on your visit. Below are a list of the highlights of things you must see plus a few more we would highly recommend.


But first, be sure to download Rick Steve's Audio Europe. Instead of spending extra money for tour groups at the most famous areas in Rome, we simply brought our own headphones and listened to the free guided tour from our phones everywhere we went. It was perfect!


The Trevi Fountain

A famous and very old part of the original aquaduct system that was used by the ancient Romans, the Trevi Fountain is a fascinating site to see. Depending on the time of year you travel, the fountain can be quite busy. We found our favorite time to go was in the early evening as the sun was setting. Also, don't forget to throw a coin over your left shoulder for good luck!


The Colosseum

One of the sites we were the most excited to see in real life, the Colosseum has a fascinating history. But don't forget to save yourself time (by buying tickets early) and money (by downloading Rick Steve's Guide to the Colosseum in lieu of purchasing an audio guide at the ticket desk). Just go to the Colosseum's website here. Believe us - you won't regret it!


The Roman Forum

If you time your visit and ticketing to the Colosseum just right, the Forum is a perfect add-on to your same day. With it's ancient ruins, amazingly long history (including Julius Cesar's tomb), and the shadow of the vast ancient city you can still see remaining today, the Roman Forum will absolutely take your breath away. Don't forget your Rick Steve's guide and to be sure to hike up to a few vantage points over the forum.

The Pantheon

Another inspiring place to visit, which is free to the public, is the Pantheon. Regardless of how busy it may appear from the outside, do not forget to walk inside. This architectural feat has been standing for over 2,000 years. Photos simply do not do the place justice - you cannot miss it during your visit. Today, the Pantheon acts as an active church, so when you go inside, it's important to respect the quiet as best as possible. But one of the best vantage points is to stand right in the middle and look up into the oculus to see the sky beyond. If you're lucky, it might start raining while you're inside. The sound of the rain hitting the marble flooring is unreal. And don't forget downloading the Rick Steve's guided tour of the Pantheon to shed some interesting light on the things you'll experience inside!


The Spanish Steps

We visited the Spanish Steps at night, which was a pleasant place to be (ignoring the merchants who try to sell you roses). There are a few ways to get to the top without taking all the stairs, but what's the fun in that? Spend some time, walk up a ways, find a place to sit and relax! The views are really lovely from above, looking down on the rest of Rome. You can even see St. Peter's Basilica glowing at night!


Vatican City

In order to give your visit to the Vatican City justice, you need to plan to spend practically an entire day here because there is too much to see. Whether you're catholic, religious, or not, there is something for everyone to experience within the walls of Vatican City. From the grand architecture of St. Peter's Basilica to the art seen in the vast Vatican museum to walking through and looking up at the famous fresco by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel to learning about the history of the Catholic Church while walking the same botanic gardens that the Pope himself walks daily, there's something for everyone to enjoy. You can reserve tickets and tours ahead of time here. If you're wanting to visit the gardens, you have to sign up ahead of time for a tour. Based on our experience, we would recommend not doing a tour of the museum as the groups get fairly large, which makes it difficult to see and hear about the highlighted pieces along the tour. Instead, reserve an audio guide or download Rick Steve's for free to listen to while you walk around. At a minimum, download his tour of the Sistine Chapel. Tours aren't allowed in and talking is prohibited, but earbuds are encouraged.


Your Own Guided Walking Tour

Beyond the typical tourist destinations, we highly recommend (if you have the time) to roam the streets of Rome and you'd be surprised at some of the really interesting areas you might come across. We've mentioned Rick Steve's Audio Europe a couple of times (you'd think we were purposely endorsing it), but he actually has great walking tours of the city that takes you through and around areas you wouldn't think to explore. We typically seek out free walking tours of any city we visit so we can get some interesting (and often times local) views into the city we're visiting. We learn a lot and love to plan for it every chance we get.


Food Food and More Food

As previously mentioned, we received some very fabulous restaurant recommendations from our hotel that cannot go without mention. Before we came to Italy, we were told "Oh the pasta is bland" or "the pizzas are boring" but "you have to have some gelato". Needless to say, everything we ate exceeded our expectations and we want to share our favorites (and as you will see, there are several that we thoroughly enjoyed!).


Tip #1: Keep in mind Italians tend to have late dinners, which are typically extensive in overall time. It seems most restaurants only have 1, maybe 2 reservations, per table per night. Restaurants aren't typically open very late but don't expect to have an early dinner either.


Tip #2: If you're used to consuming some sort of alcoholic beverage during dinner (beyond wine), you might receive some confusing looks. The Italians love to enjoy an Apertivo, which is the act of enjoying a snack or appetizer with a cocktail before dinner. Never mix the two.


sciue sciue

Sciue sciue was a perfect introduction to modern day Italian food, and it was truly fantastic. Our hotel was able to book us a reservation in advance, which was a good idea since the restaurant is small and filled up quickly. Their pasta is homemade with a phenomenal wine selection paired perfectly with an intimate ambiance. Don't forget to order some starters! The zucchini blossoms were to die for! This restaurant was perfect for our first meal in Rome!


Ristorante La Taverna Dei Monti

La Taverna Dei Monti is a delicious representation of homestyle Italian cooking. Fair warning - do not get sucked into the "Italian way of eating" with a antipasto, primo, secondo, dolce, etc. at this place. It'll be enough to feed 2-3 people! We wound up unable to finish it all and our Italian server felt so sorry for us that she charged us half price for one of our dishes! It was sweet but also slightly embarrassing.


Emma Pizzeria con Cucina

Though the menu selections and pizzas may seem simple, Emma's was an extremely delicious and fantastic representation of classic Italian pizza. We sat at their outdoor patio for dinner one night after a long day of walking all around town and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Don't forget to try out some of their amazing desserts and aperitifs too - it was the perfect night cap to a long day!


Etabli

We visited Etabli on two different occasions: once for an Italian Apertivo (apps and cocktails before dinner) on the first side of our trip and a second time for our last dinner in Italy. We enjoyed the hipster vibe/atmosphere, the music, overall ambiance, food and drink selections. Grab an Aperol Spritz, an order of bruschetta, followed by a glass of wine and some fresh cacio e pepe and you will be in heaven.


Colaione da Roscioli Caffe

If you love a good espresso or latte, stop by this little coffee shop for a quick morning beverage. Most days we wound up just having coffee at our hotel (since it was included with our room) but we wanted to branch out to find something local. This place was great and even had little bite-sized treats to enjoy with your morning coffee. Just grab a spot at the counter and order!


 

Second Stop: The Art, Food & Culture of Firenze

aka Florence.

Travel time: 4 days

Florence is a mecca for art, food, wine and Italian culture. You will walk away from your trip feeling more a part of Italy than ever before. Plan ahead for time to visit the wine country, see a few museums, walk around the streets of Florence and be sure to come hungry!


Hotel Accommodation

In Florence, we stayed at the Globus Urban Hotel, which is just a short walking distance from the train station as well as many other desirable destinations. It's a modern-styled hotel with decent-sized rooms, free minibar access with your reservation, complimentary bottle of wine as a welcome gift, a nice continental breakfast selection and a great staff! We loved our stay here and will be back.


Florence Activities

We were in Florence 3 full days, including our Thanksgiving holiday, and spent the entire time seeing some amazing art, learning all about Chianti Classico and gaining a liking for Italian wines, attended a cooking class that we have taken our newly gained chef skills into our own kitchen at home, and caught up with a college professor that we (Emily) had from UNT. Several of these items we planned for in advance (specifically the tours).


Grape Tours - Winter Chianti Tradition Tour

Since we came to Italy over Thanksgiving in November, there were some limitations on the types of wine tours that were still available, partly because it was off-season (with the exception of every other American who took the week of Thanksgiving off too) and also because it was a little colder out. However, this did not diminish our wine tour whatsoever. We booked our Winter Chianti Tradition Tour with Grape Tours and had an absolutely enjoyable time. If anything, it was better because the vineyards were not crowded. The tours were for our intimate group. We went to (3) different vineyards and tried everything from Chianti from the barrel to organically grown wines to the traditional Chianti Classico. If you love wine, you can't miss this experience. And the tour company was knowledgeable and fantastic in every way. They also dropped us off at the Piazzale Michelangelo at the end of the tour so we didn't have to hike up on our own, which was a nice place to be!


Walkabout Florence - Cooking Class at a Tuscan Farmhouse

One of our other favorite things to do together is learning to cook something new and local to the area we visit. We found Walkabout Florence on Tripadvisor, where we booked a Cooking Class that taught us to make a plethora of things. From bruschetta and homemade noodles with pesto to tiramisu, Isak and Carmela taught us some valuable skills, which we have practiced multiple times at home where we have cooked for our friends and family. The tour starts at the Mercado Centrale, where you walk through the market to select ingredients for the menu with Isak. Then a shuttle takes you to this stunning estate where the class is held overlooking the rolling Tuscan hills of Italy. We highly recommend this tour company to anyone who enjoys good food.


Italy and Wine - Truffle Hunting in Tuscany

One of the most unique things that was recommended to us by a friend was going Truffle Hunting somewhere in Tuscany. There were a few very specific locations where we found available tours and wound up selecting a company that picked us up from Florence - Italy and Wine tour group. (And in case you didn't know, the Italians use dogs to hunt for truffles.) The day of our tour, it was pretty rainy out, which could have meant the dog wouldn't have been able to sniff out the truffles, but luckily he found a few growing along the estate. We did not know much about truffles until we saw the process in action. The only thing we would have wished for was a smaller tour group.


Museum Hopping, Gallery Viewing and Church-Going

Florence is full of all kinds of historical museums with works of art in all shapes and media, galleries lined with art hundreds of years old, and churches so large you'll feel like a child again. Below is just a small list of the few we were able to visit while in Florence, that we recommend getting tickets for ahead of time. Full disclosure - we downloaded Rick Steve's guides for the museums listed below and highly recommend you do too as you walk through the galleries.


Galleria dell'Accademia - Statue of David

The famous Statue of David by Michelangelo lives in the Accademia - a small museum with a handful of rooms full of statues, a history of musical instruments and various pieces of art. But of course, everyone comes here to see David, who is magnificent in every imaginable way. Book your tickets ahead of time, which you pick up at a little building across the street.


The Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi is a fascinating gallery to visit as it is home to many famous masterpieces by well-know artists throughout the ages. But the gallery takes time, so come in the morning and plan for a late lunch. Our favorite space was the top floor gallery with the long halls full of gorgeous frescos painted on the ceilings. We also fell in love with an awe-inspiring modern art exhibit as well as a collection of Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex that were on display during our visit.


Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore aka "The Duomo"

The Duomo is a large cathedral in central Florence, that has a striking contrast to it's surrounding architectural structures with it's stark white, green and red marble facade. The Duomo is a place we wish we had planned more time to visit. We were able to get inside before it closed one evening but didn't get to spend too much time taking it all in. Apparently purchasing tickets to climb up the dome is a fun thing to do, but we did not spare the time to do it on our trip. It's still a gorgeous structure to see and experience.



Italian Shopping Adventures Unique to Florence

Over the years, we discovered we no longer like to purchase kitschy souvenirs from the places we visit. Rather, we like to spend money on something special or unique that we can either wear, display, or gift in a very thoughtful way to someone we love.

Leonardo Shoes

We knew before we came to Florence that we wanted to find a leather shoe store for Anthony to get a new swanky pair of solid and timeless shoes. After lots of research, Leonardo Shoes was the place to visit. We both wound up finding a pair of shoes each that we fell in love with. The smell and plethora of leather goods was lovely.


Santa Maria Novella Farmaceutica

If you're looking for something fancy and special to get a loved one, whether it be your mom, mother-in-law, potentially father and even a pet, the Santa Maria Novella Farmaceutica is the place to visit. This place is an institution with it's ornate architecture, decadent chandeliers, unique displays to smell and try products (from perfumes and lotions to other bath products and candles), and floral smell that greets you when you enter. This place may not be for everyone, but it is truly unique for this day and age.


Venchi Cioccolato (AND Gelato)

One last thing you cannot leave Italy without trying is the Gelato, regardless of the time of year you visit. We enjoyed gelato in a cold evening of November and it was delicious! Our only regret was not getting it more often whenever we got a chance, though that probably saved us on gaining additional vacation weight at the end of the day. Luckily, there are Venchi Cioccolato locations everywhere and in most stores, gelato is most definitely served. But don't forget to pick up a few bags full of assorted Italian chocolates to bring back to your friendly coworkers, friends or family you wish to share with when you get home (though we wouldn't blame anyone for being selfish).


Favorite Restaurants in Florence

As you can already tell, we can go on and on and on about our favorite restaurants as our trips tend to revolve around the food we eat. But we're just going to share our three favorites in Florence (which happened to be recommendations by a local friend - Emily's former professor, Cindy Mohr).


Ristorante Pepo

Ristorante Pepo is a locally loved restaurant off the beaten path from the tourist-heavy areas. It is also the restaurant where we fell in love with Cacio e Pepe and decided we had to learn to make it at home ourselves (which is super easy to create - literally translated to Cheese and Pepper - aka: fancy mac and cheese). We also tried an item on their chalkboard specials menu as well as dessert. So so so good!


simBIOsi

Where we celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with Cindy, simBIOsi is an all organic homemade pasta restaurant. They have an open kitchen/communal dining concept serving anything and everything truly 100% organic. And was it fresh! From our little surprise starter to pumpkin soup to homemade pastas, this place was a must! It definitely beat the typical Thanksgiving day turkey, sweet potato, cranberry mix.


Osteria Vini E Vecchi Sapori

And last, but certainly not least, Osteria Vini E Vecchi Sapori. This restaurant was a pleasant surprise. Everything we ate simply melted in our mouths. Our waiter had excellent recommendations, including the Pappardelle with Duck Ragu and the Beef Stew. Rustic but stunning in every way. Plus, this place is fantastic as it is always full with lots and lots of local Italians (so you know it's good!).


 

Reflection

Though we managed to squeeze in a lot of activities during our 10-day visit to Italy, we had to share our favorites with the world and for those Travelers seeking to try some unique and fun things on a visit to Italy. There are still many other amazing cities to visit, but Rome and Florence proved to be very good examples of what Italy as a whole has to offer. So come, spend some time, enjoy the amazing pasta paired with the perfect Chianti, and see what Italy is all about!


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