One Week in Northern Italy

Hi friends! Last fall, my best friend Kristen and I decided we were due for a girl’s trip. When trying to pick a destination, we narrowed it down to Europe – Kristen had only been out of the country once before to Haiti and Europe is certainly a must! After discussing our mutual love for wine, pasta and more wine, Italy seemed like the perfect destination!

We found super cheap flights ($700 round trip!) and were off in March for a week in Rome, Venice and Florence. Here was our itinerary:

1 Week in Northern Italy – Rome, Florence & Venice

7 days, 9 nights

  • Travel day
  • Day 1 – Rome – Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine, Scala Santa
  • Day 2 – Rome – Vatican, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Day 3 – Florence – Accademia Gallery, Mercato Centrale
  • Day 4 – Florence – Chianti wine tour, Piazzale Michelangelo
  • Day 5 – Florence – il Duomo, Ponte Vecchio Bridge, train to Venice
  • Day 6 – Venice – St. Mark’s Basilica, shopping
  • Day 7 – Venice – more shopping, gondola ride
  • Travel day

If you have extra time…

Take the train to Cinque Terre for a couple of days with a stop at the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the way. Cinque Terre is a beautiful coastal region (and a Unesco World Heritage Site) that consists of five small villages connected by mountain trails. We heard great things from other travelers who had been there but had been a little worried about the weather in March.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Escape to the countryside in Tuscany. While we saw some of Tuscany through our wine tour, I would have loved to stay in a B&B or an agriturismo – a working farmhouse that takes in guests. Many still produce wine or olive oil and offer a slower-paced retreat during your trip.

Tips for a great trip

  • Consider booking major attractions, museums, etc. beforehand. We saved A LOT of time (and money) by purchasing tickets before we left – and we were there in the off-season!
  • Traveling between cities by train is very easy and comfortable in Italy. You can book tickets in advance at http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en. On a side note, if someone runs onto your train and asks if they help you put your luggage in the overhead space, say no (they want tips).
  • Wear comfortable shoes – you will do a lot of walking and many of the streets are cobblestone.

Keep reading for details on each city:

Rome

We arrived in Rome late on a Thursday evening and took a private car to our Airbnb. This was my first time using Airbnb, but it had been cheaper than hotels when we booked our trip. We stayed in the heart of Trastevere which we LOVED! It was a very lively area at night with lots of restaurants and bars while still being within walking distance of most attractions.

After sleeping in, we spent two very busy days in Rome. We started Day 1 with a walk through Rome to the Colosseum, stopping for pizza along the way. The history in Rome is incredible – there are ruins everywhere! At the Colosseum, we had booked the Underground Tour which I highly recommend! Tickets are normally 12 euros and the tour was an additional 9. We got access to areas that you don’t normally see, and it was the best part of the experience.

Afterwards, we visited the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill. A guidebook may have been helpful as we really didn’t know what we were looking at most of the time. 🙂

Colosseum Collage

The Scala Santa and Chapel of San Lorenzo was the next stop after a veeeerry long walk. The Scala Santa, or Holy Stairs, are 28 steps made of marble that lead up to a chapel.  They are said to be the steps that Jesus climbed leading to his trial under Pontius Pilate. Believers today climb the stairs on their knees, praying.

We wrapped up our first day in Rome with dinner at Taverna Trilussa based on a recommendation from our Airbnb host. The pasta was amazing and we had so much fun! We made friends with some locals at a table next to us. We capped the night off with drinks in Trastevere.


Day 2 consisted of a tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s Basilica. We did a guided tour which was helpful as there is a lot of art that I probably would’ve breezed by.

Florence

We took a morning train from Rome to Florence and checked into our next Airbnb (for whatever reason we seemed to have picked all of the apartments with stairs…this one was up 4 flights!). After dropping our stuff, we headed off to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s famous David statue. While the statue is pretty cool, the museum is small and we didn’t spend much time there.


We grabbed lunch at the Mercato Central – there were SO MANY options! It was overwhelming and crowded but delicious. We napped back at our apartment and then headed out for dinner at La Fettunta. While we enjoyed the meal, I think this place would be better for lunch. We ordered appetizers, pasta, the famous Florentine steak and chocolate cake for dessert. THAT CAKE. It was so good. Two women next to us shared a piece for dessert…and then ordered another piece!

Florentine Steak

The next morning, we headed out for the Grape Escape Wine Tour with Italy on a Budget. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip! Italy on a Budget is focused on budget tours targeted towards travelers ages 18-39. We paid 60 euros and there were only four of us in the group.

We visited two different wineries in the Chianti region. One was a larger vineyard with more of an educational experience. We learned the proper way to taste wine, how the wines are made, etc. The second winery was family run and my favorite! The owner gave us a tour and conducted our tasting which our guide said was rare – he had to translate from Italian to English for her.

Our last stop on the tour was in a small town called Sam Gimigniano. It is a small hill town surrounded by walls with stunning views of the countryside around. We killed a little bit of time there eating gelato and taking pictures before heading back to Florence.

Chianti Wine Region

We walked to the Pizzale Michelangelo when we returned, but got seriously lost on the way. It’s a hike up a hill to get there and we basically ended up walking the hill twice! But the views overlooking Florence were amazing once we finally found it.

Dinner was at il Pizzaiuolo which was hands down the best pizza we had on the entire trip!

On our last morning, we beat the lines and climbed to the top of the Duomo (or cathedral) for amazing views of Florence. We also walked through the basilica and baptistery next door.

Il Duomo 2

 

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We walked across the Ponte Vecchio Bridge which was the only bridge not destroyed by the Nazi’s in WWII. Originally occupied by butcher shops, it is now filled with jewelry and souvenirs.

Ponte Vecchio Bridge

On the other side of the bridge is Oltrarno, a fun area to explore for its shops and restaurants. After a bit of exploration, we hopped on an afternoon train and rode into Venice!

Venice

Arriving into Venice is so different from any other city. When you walk out the train station, you’re greeted by boats instead of taxis and buses! After taking a few minutes to figure out how to get on the right water taxi, we rode to our final Airbnb (no stairs!). We spent the first evening wandering through the streets and grabbed dinner at a local restaurant.

Venice Canals

The next morning, we walked to St. Mark’s Square and toured the basilica (it’s free!). We spent most of the rest of our time just wandering through the streets. There are a gazillion streets filled with shops and restaurants. At one point, we stumbled upon a fresh fish market and stopped to listen to a band serenading shoppers.

Venice Fish Market

We stopped at a tiny corner restaurant called The Mob Art Café for lunch the first day. We weren’t sure what to expect but were lost and hungry so decided to give it a shot. It turned out to be the BEST decision. They only had a few pasta dishes to choose from, but I’m pretty sure the chef went to buy fresh vegetables after we ordered! We loved it so much we went back the next day, and it is difficult to find the same place twice in Venice!

Mob Art Cafe

Before leaving Venice, we took a ride through the beautiful canals on a gondola. Gondola rides can be fairly expensive so consider taking a ride earlier in the day when you can negotiate price or split the cost with other travelers.

Venice, Italy

Overall, we had an amazing week in Italy, and I can’t wait to go back! I would love to explore the Amalfi Coast and the Southern part of Italy. If you’re planning your own trip to Italy or have any questions, leave a comment or shoot us an email! We’d love to hear from you. 🙂

2 thoughts on “One Week in Northern Italy

  1. So I couldn’t resist and had to read through your blog tonight. Love the small personal details and the itineraries of the cities. Well done, friends! But we must not forget one minor detail from the Northern Italy Trip – #vaticant

    • Thanks for the comment and compliments! I love being able to have this as a way to remember the trip as well. Because who could forget that Vatican tour!

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