I've been back from Italy for two months now and I am still actually devastated that it's over. I HATE COMING BACK FROM HOLIDAYS, it's so sad that all the excitement is over and you don't truly get over it until you start planning another.
Anyway, this was the first time I've ever been to Italy (normally I'm big into Spain because, you know, it's good for the old espanol and all) and it was just as beautiful as I expected it to be. My boyfriend, Andrew, and I did a little tour about on the trains and visited several different places, venturing further and further down the country.
So, let's start with stop no.1 =
We flew from Edinburgh to Milan and spent one (totally sleep deprived) day in the City, rushing to drop our stuff in an airbnb and get straight out to the centre. We were staying around a 15 min walk from Milano Centrale station and our airbnb host informed us the best way to get about was an all day pass (which covered all forms of transport). After that day I have learned that if you don't have a scooby where the hell you are going then ASK because we spent a good 40 mins walking around the station getting so stressed out because Milano Centrale is MASSIVE with, 4 floors of different modes of transport?? Literal hell when you are running off 2 hours sleep and can read 0 italian.
Seeing as we obviously didn't have long, we prioritised the 'Duomo di Milano' (Duomo translates as Cathedral and you will literally see this word ALLL over Italy, they bloody love their duomo's) and the 'Galleria Vittorio Emanuele' which is a high end shopping centre with the most incredible architecture. Both are definitely worth seeing and they are right next door to each other which is really convenient. Except from that, we really just wandered around different streets, went in a couple of shops (where I bought thee most BEAUTIFUL pair of emerald trousers) because Milan is a MAJOR shopping city. While we enjoyed it, it was probably my least favourite out of everywhere we visited (maybe because of the lack of sleep and rushing about). I feel like it would be the ideal location for a weekend of spending some serious money. Which we didn't have lol.
Ok, so friends and family had already seriously hyped up this city for me and actually, it did not disappoint. I am a big lover of Prague, Czech Republic, however Florence was like Prague on steroids, beauty and random piazza's around every corner. We spent 4 days here and when those days where over, although we still had more than half of our holiday left, I was pretty heartbroken to leave. Florence is big but you don't need to buy transport passes or anything, we got a sightseeing ticket for our first day just so we could find our bearings and work out where everything is (which I'd highly recommend). The city is basically split in two with different attractions on each side, there's the famous 'Duomo de Santa Maria de Fiore' which I would deem the most incredible building I have ever seen. There's the Ponte Vecchio which is this gorgeous little bridge with shops lining the outsides. Then there's the Boboli gardens and Giardino delle Rose which are gorgeous to wander around and bring a picnic. Piazzale Michelangelo has an INSANE view of Florence and full of little markets where you can buy souvenirs and just up a bit is the Cimitero delle Porte Sante which is a beautiful cemetery full of history and really touching to visit. We stayed in a gorgeous airbnb which I'll actually link because it was perfect, very close to the city centre however local and quiet enough that we had thee most amazing sleeps. Florence was by far the safest feeling city we visited if this is a big factor for you. Walking about at night felt totally fine and everywhere felt super friendly. Anyway I could keep ranting about Florence forever but I'm going to stop and just tell you that you need to slide this one to the top of your travel list.
After calm, peaceful Florence, we got the train into the actual CHAOS that was Rome. To be fair it was insanely beautiful chaos but, I stress that, it was mental. I don't really mind busy cities but this was new level and at certain points I felt slightly panicked getting about. Rome is pretty huge but you can still walk about from sight to sight if you have the time. We stayed quite far out and I wouldn't really recommend where we were. If you can, try and stay somewhere CENTRAL and close to the sights because where we stayed felt dodgy as fuck and we ended up getting a fair few taxi's home at night because we were too not up for the walk (this was like a 20/30 min walk away from Roma Terminal station but the opposite direction from the centre).
The first night that we got there, we ran round the sights in the dark, seeing the Trevi fountain for the first time GLOWING in the night was so, so beautiful. There is so much to see in Rome. You can wander about for ages and never get bored. Very worth seeing.
(Can I also add that they have a MASSIVE brandy melville which was definitely floating my boat.)
Unfortunately, the route that google maps took us from the train station to our airbnb was through a really horrible part of Naples. The streets were dirty, there were many Italian ned equivalents all shouting at each other while we tried to pull our suitcases through the narrow streets in the PISSING rain. Andrew literally had to drag me out of airbnb because I was certain this was the time and place for us to finally be mugged.
Talking about the airbnb, it was STUNNING, going to link this one too because it was perfect and I'm very proud of this find. The hosts were so helpful and they showed us all the places worth going and where we wanted to go on a wee map (they also gave us a massive bottle of pineapple juice which, in my eyes, ultimately brings your rating up to a 5 star). I sucked it up (the sadness but yes, also the juice), went back out trying to see Napoli through FRESH eyes and ended up, of course, falling in love with it. It was really different from the other Italian cities we'd been to, less touristy, younger crowds, kinda grungy? (literally every second person was wearing a leather jacket (even when the sun came out)). If you are going to Italy with your main objective being to experience the food, go to Naples. This is obviously the origin town for pizza and HOLY MOTHER OF GOD it is GREAT. £4 for the best pizza of your life. There's two main streets that run parallel to each other that are super narrow and bursting with restaurants and bars. I definitely think this is the kind of place you wanna go for a wild one because at night the streets are crowded with young people, hanging out and drinking, and there's music blaring from the little pubs. There's just a real, fun atmosphere. One of our days we took the train to Pompeii, which was around 50 mins away and 5 euros for a return. Pompeii was pretty insane, a lot bigger than I expected and pretty disturbing. I don't think I've mentioned this yet but if you're under 25 and European then you get major discounts into the tourist attractions (Colosseum, Vatican etc.) just like in Paris! So make sue you bring some form of ID to prove this because we got into Pompeii for 2/3 euros which seriously reduces that holiday dent in your savings. However if you're gonna do Pompeii it's really worth doing a tour, we paid 10 for ours and it lasted 2 hours and was really interested. I would have been bored if I didn't have the context and the information attached to all you're seeing so once you get off the train, get talking to some of the guides at the entrance and they'll sort you out.
Lastly, Napoli also has a port which means you can go on day trips to the surrounding islands (including Capri and Ischia). Which leads me onto...
We didn't actually get to stay overnight here (and I am KICKING myself for it) but we spent the full day on this island in one of the thermal baths. I had no idea what Ischia was all about, we chose it because we wanted somewhere a little less city and a little more sunbathing (and it was cheaper than getting to Capri). I soon found out from our airbnb host that Ischia's main attractions are these 'thermal baths' (essentially outdoor spa's). We chose one of the most famous on the Island, 'Negombo Thermal Gardens'. It was a 15 minute bus journey from the port and then a 10 minute walk from the stop, really not too difficult to get to but if you're not sure where to get off, just ask the bus driver because he'll know where it is! I honestly was ready to cry when we walked in because it was so gorgeous (and it was finally roasting). 30 euros for the full day in paradise, with access to around 30 outdoor pools with different temperatures, all placed along the side of this massive hill with a stunning view of the sea. Everything about it was serene and beautiful, it'd be the perfect getaway for stressy times or a honeymoon!! I loved it.
So, what's the verdict? I think I'd rank the cities Florence, Naples, Rome then Milan however I would return to all of them given the chance. Whilst it's more expensive than Spain, the southern part of Italy is a bit more on par with their prices so maybe start there if you're struggling. It's also so easy to get about on the trains so if you're heading over to Italy, you may as well visit a couple of different cities. Next time I'm there I'm desperate to visit Sicily (one of my Granny's favourites) and I, one day, plan to own a penthouse in Florence xo
Happy travelling and thank-you for reading xo