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ITALY UNCOVERED: 5 must-see destinations!

Ahhh Italia, one of my favourite countries in the world! Here are three top tips for visiting the country before we dive in:

  • Italy can be quite an expensive place to visit. I always book flights and accommodation well in advance to get the best deals. Skyscanner and Trivago are lifesavers when facing the tedious ordeal of scouring the internet for hours searching for the best deals, as these sites will do all the work for you!

  • I recommend catching the train if you plan on travelling around Italy. Italian trains are always clean, cool and extremely punctual – a veritable miracle for a seasoned traveller of Northern rail services! Me and my family managed to get first-class tickets for most of our journey’s for only seven euros more so why not travel in style!

  • If like me, you can only commit to a holiday in the summer months, I cannot recommend enough that you plan your trip! It doesn’t have to be meticulous but have a general idea of your plans for the day to avoid any unnecessary walking in the relentless Mediterranean heat!

With its legendary history and striking natural beauty, it is little wonder Italy is the third most visited country in the world. Luckily, I have managed to visit five of the most famous areas of this beautiful country and kept a diary of my travels so buckle up & here we go!

VERONA:


Known as the city of romance, Verona is more dreamy and romantic than Paris if you ask me folks. Our hotel was a former medieval manor house about five miles from the city called Villa Sagramoso Sacchetti. This meant we had to travel in but living amongst the locals made our stay here more enjoyable. There was a lack of eateries, but we did manage to find (after a considerable detour over Tuscan country roads) a local restaurant specialising in beef which was simply divine!

The most famous site is by far that said to be Juliet’s House and Balcony. Built in the Gothic style, the house can be viewed from a courtyard on Via Capello for free. There is also a bronze statue of Juliet- apparently if you rub her breast it brings you good luck! The August crowds meant that we practically crowd-surfed to get a picture of the courtyard amidst hundreds of tourists. I definitely plan to go again out of season to avoid the crowds. Admittedly, most of our time was spent by the pool relaxing at the manor house we were staying in. On the days we ventured into Verona, we enjoyed people watching on Piazza Bra aside the garden of fountains - I was living my best life or as the Italians would say living la dolce vita!




VENICE:


We took a pre-booked coach from Venice airport into the city which took around twenty minutes. Our hotel was a little way out from the centre, a beautiful B&B called Corte 1321 run by a local woman who served us cakes for breakfast (I was in heaven believe me). This meant we were a convenient ten minutes from the centre with a view onto one of the city's many canals and a short walk from the Ponte de Rialto. We managed to have a look around St Mark’s Basilica by going to a short mass before dinner one evening (lapse Catholicism at its finest and no ticket required!). We took the vaporetto, which is quite reasonably priced, along the Canale Grande to Burano Island. Secluded and rustic, the fishing island was a lovely sojourn from the hustle and bustle of Venice, dotted with yummy places to eat and charming old mediterranean streets featuring brightly coloured fishermen's houses.





FLORENCE:


We stayed in Florence for six nights for a real culture show! We booked a guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery beforehand, saving lots of money and smugly jumped the queue of the hundreds of waiting tourists - tickets can be found here. Unless you know more than a smattering about renaissance art, I recommend a guided tour so you can properly understand the artwork and its history. When visiting Florence Cathedral, we also, opted for a pre-ordered, short guided tour which was awe-inspiring to say the least. The next stop was the Gallery of the Academy of Florence, AKA home to Michelangelo's David and other famous Renaissance works.We visited the Pizzi Palace, once home to the ruling families of Florence. Once a great treasure house, it was brimming with paintings, plates, jewellery and luxurious possessions, and had a dazzlingly beautiful interior.


The palace gardens were also to die for but in light of the August heat, we decided to admire them from afar! The palace also contains several art and museum galleries in itself such as the Gallery of Modern Art and Porcelain Museum – definitely worth a visit if you have the time. Florence was the largest city we visited and was brimming with places to eat. Often the cheapest and best quality food could be found on the side streets a little way out from the main stretch. Our hotel, the Hotel Principe recommended The Cut Steakhouse, a restaurant specialising in Florentine steak - one of Florence's famous dishes. It was nothing short of fabulous, served with herby new potatoes and veg, finished off with gelato. We managed to get a table for an hour and a half but booking is advised!




SESTRI LEVANTE:


A hidden gem for sure, we stayed at the Hotel Vis a Vis located on the hills which gave us a glorious view of the bay below. This fishing town is the perfect size, a mix of independent local shops and fine eateries with hardly any tourists which made for a very authentic experience. The hotel itself was first-class, we could dine overlooking the beautiful Baia delle Favole, (Bay of the Fables), and Baia del Silenzio, the (Bay of Silence). I was lucky enough to take a boat trip from Sestri marina to the famous Portofino for my birthday (simply unforgettable) and climbed up to the cliff tops for a glorious view of the Mediterranean sea. I had a glorious prawn linguini overlooking the bay, on the look out for an A-list celebrities! Tame Impala didn't write a song about this place for nothing guys!




PISA:


The last leg of my trip was at Pisa. The city itself is small and not a popular location for tourists to stay overnight so we found ourselves in quite a rudimentary hotel called Hotel Pisa Tower. You don’t have to pay to enter the Piazza del Duomo but entrance to the leaning tower, cathedral and baptistry is quite expensive. I made do with a photoshoot in front of the tower (an insta win!). There are so many guided tours in the cathedral square so we just listened in and learned the essentials for free! Food-wise, the streets immediately surrounding the tower was very expensive so we walked further into the city and had a glorious meal about ten minutes from the centre for a reasonable price. We stayed for one night in Pisa but anyone staying longer should definitely visit the abundance of historic churches and medieval palaces dotted across the city. There is also a shopping area with several designer and other high-end shops for the more glamorous traveller!





{ Let me know if you enjoy this style of travel writing for future posts :) }


- Ellie x

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