After years of hoping to study abroad in Italy, my sister was finally provided the chance to attend school in Florence this summer. I was so proud and happy for her to finally be able to visit the country she had been longing to travel to for so long. I also may have had my own personal agenda in mind, because this meant I would be able to return to Europe again.
So – my mother and I booked a flight for the first week of June to fly into Helsinki, Finland for a night, before traveling to Rome, Vatican City, and then Florence to meet my sister.
ROME: 2 days
Hotel: Hotel Franklin Feel The Sound
Our hotel was located near Vatican City, and although it had great reviews was a bit disappointing, it did include free breakfast and had a cool “music” theme, but it was also under construction. However, I also know from past experience the hotels in Rome are a bit overrated.
Sites: Colosseum, Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish Steps (Under construction)
Food: Mirror pizzeria, Antonio al Pantheon, Bibo pizzeria,
Ristorante pizzeria forno a legna, Gelato at Chocolat, Corallo Ristorante
We spent the first night in Trastevere, “Rome’s favorite neighborhood” this area is popular among locals and has some really great restaurants, it’s a really nice contrast to all of the tourist traps in Rome. We had dinner the first night at Mirror Pizzeria, it was difficult to get a table and I ordered the marinara pizza with red wine, it was good but not the best pizza I had while in Italy. The following morning we awakened early to visit the Colosseum, then made our way over to the Forum – which I had not visited my previous trip to Rome. The Forum is really interesting and contains a lot of ruins, it’s beautiful. We then grabbed lunch at Bibo Pizzeria, we ordered several different items, great food and really polite service. My favorite site was, of course, Trevi Fountain due to the fact that my last visit to Rome it was under construction.
*THE BEST restaurants I have eaten at in Rome included Antonio al Pantheon : amazing truffle pasta, and CORALLO RISTORANTE, which had amazing food in general, and dessert!
VATICAN CITY: 1 day
Hotel: Hotel Franklin Feel The Sound
Sites: Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Basilica
The entire day was spent exploring the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica. You can spend an entire day here or get through it within half a day and explore more of Rome, it all depends on your speed, energy, and your personal interests. We returned to Trastevere for dinner, Ristorante pizzeria forno a legna, where we had mussels and pizza, it took us a very long time to find a decent dinner place that didn’t have an hour+ wait. I definitely recommend this restaurant.
*Word of advice: When visiting Rome, make a list in advance of sites you MUST see, you can get to almost everything by walking if you are in good health. Some sites may be under construction – we walked to the Spanish Steps after the vatican and they were under construction 😦
FLORENCE: 2 days
Hotel: Athenaeum Personal Hotel
Sites: Dome, Uffizi museum, Galleria del Accademia, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo,
Food: Amorino Panini, Osteria Della Bistecca, Za Za Firenze, Mercato Centrale
The following day we boarded a train to Florence to meet my sister. We stayed at the , which was a very, very nice hotel, much better than Rome. We then climbed to the Dome in the Florence Cathedral, which if you are claustrophobic or afraid of heights I do not recommend. We visited the Duomo museum and had lunch at Amorino Panini – which has great paninis, although the focaccia bread was very salty. Florence is absolutely beautiful. We had a delicious steak dinner at Osteria Della Bistecca. The following morning we went to both the Accademia museum and Uffizi – where we saw the David statue and the beautiful renaissance art. I love art, unfortunately renaissance art is my least favorite…. walking around florence and just admiring the architecture and the markets is something to do in itself. The Mercato Centrale is a food market with everything imaginable, we had lunch here, the pasta was all delicious. We technically only spent a day and a half in Florence then hopped on another train to Venice, this time with my sister.
VENICE: 2 days
Sites: Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, St. Mark’s Basilica, Piazza San Marco, Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Doge’s Palace
Food: Alle Due Gondolette, il Sigillo da Mauro e Mimmo, Osteria Al Bacco, Le Cafe
The hotel we stayed at in Venice was by far the nicest! Probably one of the top five nicest hotels I have stayed in ever – it was right on the Grand Canal, our window had the most beautiful view of gondolas, bridges and vaperettos. Venice is beautiful, yet more of a “relaxing” city than others in Europe. There is not as much to do (site wise, museum wise). The Guggenheim museum was awesome and a site I did not visit on my previous trip to Venice. In Piazza San Marco there is the Basilica, the Tower, and a few museums, We rode on a gondola and walked around a lot – stopping in countless leather shops. The only downside is almost every single restaurant in the tourist area has TERRIBLE food – we had to travel all the way to the Jewish Ghetto to find authentic tasty Italian food. I HIGHLY recommend Alle Due Gondolette to anyone looking for a good meal in Venice.