What a year! I was able to find a way over to Italy, not once but twice this year! I definitely can't complain about that and all that I got to see. And now I want to share as much as I possibly can with you in hopes that when you get to explore Italy, hopefully you'll be able to take some help from this blog and make your own time over there that much more enjoyable!
My first trip over was with my wife celebrating our anniversary! We enjoyed two weeks traveling from southern Italy taking in all the beauty and history of the Italian cities, all the way up in to the heart of the Italian Alps.
So a while back I had asked my followers on Instagram what they would like to learn about with traveling to Italy the most. And besides the obvious request of where I went, the other request were how to find reasonable flights, lodging and the best ways to get around all of Italy. So in the rest of this blog, I plan to go over all of that! So I hope you're in your comfy seat, with something to drink in hand. I hope you enjoy the photos, but more importantly I hope that you take something away from this to help with your future plans to explore the incredibly beautiful country of Italy!
I'll be straight up with you, when it comes to world travel, I'm definitely a novice. My flight to Italy in May was my first time leaving the country except for going to Canada. So even though I may not have the most experience in this area, I'll still share what I learned. I flew with multiple airlines to get to Italy on both of my trips. On the way over in May, I flew with Alaska to Florida (who are my favorite airline) then got a connection onto British air on our way over to London before taking one last little hopper down to Naples, Italy. On our way home, we flew out of Bologna, Italy, flying with American Airlines the entire way. So our main flights were with British and American and there were definitely a couple big differences. British air was an older plain with not as many new tech amenities, it still had movies and such to watch, but unfortunately had to power to charge devises. What it did have though was pretty decent legroom. We were very comfortable on our flight over. On our way back on American, we were definitely more cramped with a couple inches less of legroom, especially if you decided to recline your seat. The way their seats work is that when you recline, not only does your back recline but the bottom of your seat slides forward putting your knees right into the back of the seat in front of you unless they too fully recline. Unfortunately, the person sitting in front of me never reclined therefore leaving me with even less space. Where American makes up for this is with all their new tech, not only do you have charging ports for all your electronics, but their entertainment is awesome! They had a live show right in cabin!!... just kidding ha! Their were screens on back of every seat, that offered a HUGE collection of movies, tv shows, and quiet a few games! So though I may have been cramped, I was at least able to keep myself busy. As far as pricing goes, from what I've found, American tends to have the better deals going across to Europe. On my trip back over in October, I was able to find round trip tickets for $500!! That's not too bad at all, especially considering that it cost me more than that sometimes to fly to Dallas, TX to visit family!
So now on to where I went! We flew in to Naples late in the evening and went straight to our hotel we had already booked through hotels.com (we booked most of this trip through them as we were able to find pretty god prices and they have a sweet deal where once you book 10 nights, you get a free night). That next morning we hopped on a ferry and made our way over to the little island of Capri.
We spent a couple days here and it was great! It's a pretty busy town during the day with ferries coming and going with tourist but it wasn't bad. Capri is a great little island with something for everyone. There is so much to do and we definitely did as much as we could fit it! Right off the boat we noticed a gelato stand, and of course we were super excited to have our first taste of Italian gelato... and it didn't disappoint! There are lots of urban trails all over the island, like to views like this! There is a trail that starts way down in town that leads up to Hotel San Michele offering incredible sights like this! The hike up is very steep and kinda long, so the other options are to take a taxi up, catch a shuttle or opt for the fun way and for only about $40 a day rent a scooter which is what we did. It was a fun drive up to the top, where we grabbed some pizza and went for a nice walk through some stores and around some of the trails.
One thing that my wife and I were really excited to do was the Blue Grotto. The Blue Grotto is a small cave, located on the NW side of the island and you can again either hike there or you can hop on a tour boat and enjoy either a quick 15 minute ride straight there and back or a smaller private tour of the whole island which also includes a stop at the Blue Grotto.
This place is unlike any other place I've ever seen before and is also quiet the adventure to get into. After taking the boat or the trail to the Blue Grotto, you have to pay one of the boat guys for them to take you in the Grotto.
This whole cave is on private property, it's not very expensive but totally worth the cost. They will load up between 1 and 4 people on to each little row boat depending on how busy it is. They then paddle over to this very small opening that doesn't look like it would be anything at all. After they wait for a lull in the waves the tour guide grabs a chain attached to the walls and with everyone lying down low in the boat he pulls the boat into the cave, and once your eyes adjust it's mind blowing! The cave opening is only a few feet tall and wide above water but the amount of light it lets in is astounding! It appeared as if someone was down under the water with massive flash lights lighting up the water it was so bright, even though I knew that not to be the case. So along with the light reflecting in through the opening and the white sand below, it creates this strong blue glow inside the cave. It's something no photo can do justice (even though I took enough to prove I tried ha ha) , but it's definitely something everyone should experience once!
There are plenty of other things to see and do on Capri but these couple items were definitely the highlight of our time there. It was also nice just walking around town browsing stores and cafes. There was this one really nice chocolate shop, with all kinds of really tasty samples and a 3 story tall chocolate cascading waterfall!!!!
Next we boarded a train on up to Rome! By the way, using trains in Italy is pretty affordable, quick and an easy way to get around. In Rome at least, there is also Uber who we preferred using over taxis. The couple times we used taxis, they would tell us one price before getting in and then a whole different price when getting out and then suddenly couldn't speak English anymore. Pretty frustrating knowing they are taking advantage of you, but what do you do. At least with Uber, you know exactly what you are paying, and not only that, the Uber cars are much nicer. All of our times using them in Rome they were all nice Mercedes, with very nice drivers.
Rome is an incredible city with a LOT to see! For us though, one day seemed sufficient. We got to Rome around noon from the train ride up from Capri, we dropped our bags off at our hotel and then hit the pavement. We had found a pretty inexpensive hotel just a few blocks from the Colosseum, so that was our first stop, and it's quite the sight! It's every bit as incredible a sight as you would hope it would be. The only downside of the Colosseum are of course, all the people! But that wasn't even that bad, the part I wasn't expecting at all were all the vendors, EVERYWHERE!!!
I'm naturally a pretty kind person and hate even the thought of being rude to people. But we learned real quick that these vendors prey on people like me. So I had to learn quick to avoid eye contact and also just simply ignore them if they were trying to get my attention. I felt really bad doing this, but realized quickly there was no way around it or you'd be wasting all kinds of money buying all kinds of crap ha! We ended up walking around 8 miles alone in Rome. There are tour buses you can take around the city, but I honestly enjoyed walking around and taking it all in. Plus it gave me a better excuse to eat more pizza ha ha, since I was burning it all off walking around so much! Here are a few more sights that we took in that first day just wandering around.
This fountain is beautiful, and also very busy.
Consider going early in the morning before sunrise like we did to experience the fountain all to yourself! It was definitely worth the early wake up. It's much more romantic and calming when you're not sharing it with a thousand other people!
My wife was so excited to get a shot like this by herself :)
Another location that wasn't on my radar at all when visiting Rome but honestly was one of the more memorable locations was Altare della Patria.
This place is free to enter and had so much to see! And I've never seen so much marble in one place in my life! It was quite the sight! We walked around a bunch more and it was time for dinner. We decided to head back to this pizzeria we had spotted near the Colosseum that had an outdoor seating area with a view overlooking the Colosseum. Their pizza wasn't the best we had had yet but along with the view was pretty great! Finally sunset was approaching so we hustled down to so I could get set up to get a couple photos.
The next morning after seeing the Trevi fountain, we headed to the Vatican to catch the sunrise tour we had signed up for a few weeks prior. If the Vatican is something you'd like to see, I highly recommend doing it this way, it cost a little more but the tour happens before it's opened up to the general public, so it's not even close to as busy as it is during the day. And for someone like me who doesn't like a lot of crowds, this was nice. It also happened to come with a nice breakfast buffet.
AFter coming out of the Vatican, we were hungry. And guess what we found right across the street, GELATO!!! There is gelato everywhere, and it's all really really good, and I recommend getting some often ha ha! We definitely had our fair share.
We slowly made our way back to our hotel, grabbed our luggage and grabbed another train on our way to Cinque Terre. This is a place we both underestimated how much we would enjoy. Up to this point, as much as we had enjoyed our time so far, it had been full of a lot of people in loud cities and we had yet to really feel that authentic old Italy feel. We finally got this in Cinque Terre. We didn't arrive until later in the evening, but found a wonderful little restaurant in our town and enjoyed one of the better meals we had while in Italy.
First thing in the morning we hit the trail. Cinque Terre is made up of 5 small towns. You can access them via the train that follows along the coastline, a road up above the towns either by car or bus, or we chose to do, hike a very popular trail that connects them.
One of the greatest things we came across while hiking on this hot day was a random bar in between a couple of the towns. They had only 2 frozen drinks to choose from, a lemoncello and an orange drink. Both could be made virgin or with a little bit of alcohol. We both choose the latter and enjoyed them under some shade with this amazing view!
We then continued on to the next town.
If I haven't mentioned it yet, the baked goods in Italy are unlike anything I've ever had here in the states. I don't really know what makes the difference, but from the dough consistency to the sweetness and flavor. Everything about their baked goods far exceed anything I've ever had anywhere else!
Don't forget to always get Gelato when you see it :)
After hiking around a little more through the towns, we finally decided to hop on a ferry that also shuttles you between the towns back to Manorola for dinner and sunset.
I had to share at least one sappy photo
After enjoying a day in Cinque Terre we caught a train to Bologna where we rented a car and then headed north in to the mountains.
So far on this blog I've been writing in chronological order of my trip with my wife. Now that we are getting to the mountains portion, I'm going to break that pattern since I visited the mountains twice this year. So I'll just share more of the details of where I went and what I would recommend.
The Italian mountains are unlike any area I've ever been to. The mountains are huge and often are separated by deep green valleys with little towns and churches down low. One interesting observation is that the Italian mountains are extremely accessible. Which makes them perfect for those that maybe don't like hiking or simply can't hike much. Some of the most beautiful locations can be accessed by car or just little nature trails. I stumbled upon so many beautiful views just by simply driving around on the beautiful Italian mountain roads.
Below is a list of places I visited along with photos from my trips.
Located just south west of Bologna, you'll enjoy a beautiful drive up to this very scenic parking lot and then a nice and short hike up to a couple beautiful lakes.
Lago Di Carezza
Just East of Bologna you'll find this beautiful lake that you can drive right up to. There is plenty of parking along with a cafe and a store with a nice clothes and souvenirs. There is no hiking at all required to get this view but if you'd like to stretch your legs there's a nice flat trail that leads around the lake. This lake does get pretty busy, but if you go early (sunrise is best) you'll enjoy a beautiful show as the mountains in the background bathe in early morning light.
Santa Maddalena Alta
This is a beautiful place again that is very easy to get to. It's a beautiful drive up a windy road through a couple beautiful towns. There is some easy parking and a little walk to a deck that has been built to give you the most perfect view point of this incredible church! After you've taken your photos, follow the road a little further to a trail that takes you right to the church.
Lago Di Braise
This is an absolute must visit place! You can walk right up to this amazing view and you can also take these boats out for a relaxing paddle on the lake. There are a few trails here, some that just lead around the lake and one that takes you to the top of the peak there in the background. There is also a beautiful hotel located right on the shore along with a cafe and restaurant.
A view from above
NOW TIME FOR SOME HIKING!
Lago Di Sorapis
This lake goes down in my book as having the most beautiful color of water I've ever seen in an alpine lake. I honestly couldn't believe my eyes even as I stood there looking at it. The hike itself was great as well and there are two options to take. If you follow Google maps directions to get there it'll bring you down much lower in elevation but really is a beautiful hike in. You'll start by hiking through a farm that had some beautiful and very friendly horses that came right up to meet us. Once you pass through that, you'll start gaining elevation and come across a beautiful waterfall (in the spring at least). This route is definitely the harder way to the lake but definitely has it's bonuses. The other route starts just east of the lake and is about the same length, roughly 4.5 miles one way, but with very little elevation gain. This route does have a couple spots with some exposure, but there are cables to hold on to so it really isn't that bad.
I would plan to stay here for a while, because once you get here, you really won't want to leave. There is also a Rifugio at the top near the lake, during the summer months when it's open this would be a great place to grab a drink or even stay at.
The above photos was from when I visited in late May, when I returned in October it was pretty different. The great part about October was the Larch trees adding their beautiful orange pop of color to the scenery. The downside is that the lake itself was almost completely dried up. it was a fraction the size it was in the spring and the water that was left was maybe only a foot or two deep. I don't know if this is a normal thing every year or if Italy had a dry summer, either way it was still beautiful with the larches, just not quite what we expected.
This place really is a sight to see. There are miles of trails and via ferratas to do. There is a big loop you can do around the main feature that's pretty easy. The entire loop is around 6 miles. There are also a few other trails that head off in different directions to take in different perspectives of the Tre Cime and other surrounding mountains. This is a place you could easily spend a couple days at to take it all in.
Like I mentioned before, there are also a bunch of via ferratas you can do. If you aren't familiar with what that is, it literally means "iron way". Many of them were built during world war 1 as the Austrians fought against the Italians, they created these "iron ways" to have easier access to the higher parts of the mountains for the advantage it had. When doing these paths, please be sure to have a harness and via ferrata lanyard, as well as leaving a fear of heights behind as some of these paths can be quite exposed. But if you are up for the adventure you'll be in for quiet the treat!
Vajolet Towers (pronounced Violet)
This was a really fun hike that had some really amazing views.
Even though I've spent 3 weeks here total so far, and felt like I did a lot, there is honestly so much more to do here. These mountains are filled with so many beautiful lakes and peaks. I do hope that this blog has helped at least a little bit in your plans of visiting. If you have any questions at all please leave me a message on here or on my Instagram. Thanks so much for reading, it really does mean the world to me. Below are just a few more photos from around Italy.