If you are looking to take a trip to Europe anytime soon, you might consider taking a stop in Italy. In fact, better than a stop, take a trip to Italy! Backpacking through Europe, or sightseeing in the country side, we have the inside scoop on the best way for a foreigner to get an authentic and rewarding tour of Italy.
How can you take a trip to Italy without going to Rome? I think it might be impossible. Naturally, going to Rome is most common, here are some top tips for traveling in Rome.
First, experts say, if you can afford it, invest in some travel passes. Going to the most famous spots? The Vatican, the colosseum, or the Sistine chapel? This pass is awesome! Cut lines, get your very own tour guide, and much more. We recommend the passes at Omnia Card. With options of 24 to 72 hours, the omnia card is a must have for your time in Rome.
If you aren’t comfortable traveling in a foreign country, consider getting a hotel close to the inner city. You can walk to every area you want to visit. Alternatively, the passes have a special bus service which will ferry you around from site to sight. Either of these options are preferable to renting a car and trying to figure out the foreign driving laws.
Are you confident traveling without speaking the language? Or do you have someone who speaks the language traveling with you? Then consider getting a hotel outside of the city! They are much cheaper and are only a short train trip into town. If you will be riding the subways, here are a few top tips.
Don’t worry about catching the first subway. It will likely be crazy and intimidating. Calm down, breathe, and wait for the next train to come. We also suggest standing near the back instead of near the front. The front gets crowded fast, but the back cars are easier to board and less busy.
Some sites to consider seeing on your travels:
- The Colosseum
- The Vatican
- The Sistine Chapel
- The Spanish Steps
- The Forum
- The Trevi Fountain
- The Pantheon
- Museo e Galleria Borghese
- Museo Carlo Bilotti
- Museo Nazionale d’Arte Moderna Contemporanea
Venice has often been described as the most beautiful city in Italy. With winding streets and corner upon corner of history, there is never enough time to explore everything this beautiful city has to offer.
When we discussed the best way to take in this masterpiece of Italy, the best advice we received was to get a street map as soon as you arrive.
Venice is easy to get lost in, so if you are a safe, calculating and planning traveler, a map is a must. Forget about driving and put on your walking shoes.
If you want an adventurous tour of Venice, take to the streets and just walk! Explore streets and alleys and nooks. There is more than enough to see of Venice to allow you and your travel mates to just wander for a while. If you have followed our other crucial piece of advice, you can use the street map you picked up to find your way back from where you end up.
Most people picture Venice during the summer months. But, during the summer, Venice is hot and crowded. If you’re looking to hit up the beaches then the summer might still be for you. Consider, however, a romantic picture of Venice in the snow. During Christmas time, Venice is fairly unoccupied. Granted, Italy has a bitter cold, with frequent fog and wind which might be intimidating to some. If you are up for an adventure, and looking for a more romantic and intimate view of Venice, we highly recommend a winter trip to this beautiful city.
Things to do and places to visit:
- The Piazza San Marco
- Shop Bridge
- Gondola ride
- The Rialto Market
- The Northern Lagoon at Venice (Birdwatching)
Milan, or the city of fashion as some have come to call it is a much more modern Italian city. Although still rich in history, and full to the brim with Italian museums and architecture, many visit Milan for the modern art.
Keep an eye out for streetwear! Fashion is important in Milan, and if you keep a sharp eye, you can likely spot someone sporting a cool street look.
On a more lighthearted note: Consider going with your family on a guided tour of the Teatro alla Scala! As a beautiful historical site, this theatre stuns like none other in Milan. You can find some affordable tickets here for one of the best tours of your life!
If you want a view of this bustling city at night, consider the Porta Venezia! Avoid the Duomo at night, as it tends to be crowded. Explore the outer edges of the city and you can find some real gems!
Don’t be afraid to take the tram! The tram is an important part of European culture and lifestyle. Not to mention, it’s fun! Take the tram with your family or love ones and live like the locals a bit!
Things to see or do:
- Castle Castello di Sforzefsca Museum
- Milan Cathedral
- Lake Como
- Lake Maggiore
- Lake Garda
- Teatro alla Scala
Smaller Cities in Italy
If you want the typical Italian vacation experience, you can stop reading right here. Beyond are tips for the more adventurous and curious travelers.
Some people love the big Italian cities. A different experience, however, is traveling through the countryside and visiting some of the smaller cities. If you and your family or friends are planning to zip through the countryside on a train here or our travel tips for these more popular, smaller cities.
The beautiful city of Trieste is one of the many Italian port cities. With beautiful gulf views, and gorgeous architecture, Trieste is a bit o a hidden gem. Trieste is uniquie in that because of its location, it used to be a part of lots of other empires. For that reason, it has a rich history with lots of neat little historical sites you can casually visit with your travel mates.
A bit like the south in America, you can find a church on almost every corner. These churches are works of art themselves and definitely worth a look.
Also worth a visit, if you consider yourself interested in World War II history, is the Trieste Concentration Camp. Although a little dark, it is a fascinating place to visit.
Between trains, trams, and your own two feet, getting around Trieste is relatively easy. Not to mention it is a beautiful adventure everywhere you go.
One important thing to know before going to Trieste are the violent winds! Fierce winds blow off the water and can knock an unsuspecting person over. Often on street booths you can find metal poles for you to quickly grab onto to prevent yourself from blowing away!
The wonderful city of Bologna is another site to see off the beaten path.
With wonderful sites like the two towers, the Piazza de Maggiore, and Neptune fountain, it is not a site you want to miss. A visit to Bologna can be describes as “the most authentic look into Italian life that you can find as a tourist.”
If you want a touristy experience here though, there are two places you should consider visiting: the Beretta Gun factory, and the Ducati motorcycle factory. A dear friend of mine visited the Ducati motorcycle factory and described it as “the coolest experience of (his) life.”
Genoa is another beautiful port city of Italy. This is a hilly city with the classic Italian look. Some call Genoa “little Venice.” This is especially true in the cute district within Genoa called “the ally way district.”
If you decide to visit this little city, you must try to locals focaccia bread. You will find no better bread in the whole world!
Genoa is surrounded by old forts. These forts are fun to explore and we highly recommend them! There is a fantastic hiking route outside Genoa with a trail that goes past some old walls and even an old fort! Checkout the details here!
If you are backpacking or traveling low key, you had ought to stop in Genoa for a tour of this beautiful Italian villa town.
Our most important and valuable advice is this: get lost! Follow your nose when something smells good and makes your mouth water. Explore the cities for yourself and find your own hidden gems. There is rich history and culture in every Italian city. Look up from your phone, from your travel guide, from your map, and follow your feet! Find murals, bakeries, old churches, anything that catches your eye. Take time to explore and really live in the moment! Most importantly don’t become so focused on making memories or filling an itinerary that you forget to enjoy your vacation.