A few years ago, I made a 30 before 30 list. I wrote down 30 things I wanted to do or accomplish before I turned the big 3-0! My friend, Connie, came up with the idea originally, but I decided to make one too. 🙂 She’s almost a full year younger than me, so she is actually still working on hers now. Lucky girl! I had quite a bit less time to fulfill mine, and to be honest, I barely did most of the things on my list mainly because they involved so much travel, but hey… I can use it for a 40 before 40 list, right?! I have lots of places I’d like to visit!
The last thing on my list was that I wanted to visit Italy when I turned 30 or right after it. My birthday is mid-October, and Jacob’s is late November, so we talked about going in between our birthdays as a fun trip for ourselves to kick off moving into our 30s. Well, when my 29th birthday rolled around, Jacob surprised me with an already booked trip to Rome for our anniversary in March! I was so surprised that I started crying. I think he was a little shocked by my tears (I’m not that emotional unless it’s a dumb tv show…don’t judge!), but I told him they were happy tears, of course! I was so excited, but oh so nervous to be travelling so far without my mom (hello, mom)! We had only been out of the country once, for our honeymoon to Canada, so it was quite a new adventure for us.
He planned our trip to leave Houston on March 7, 2015, and we flew to Munich, and then straight to Rome. That flight was interesting. I’ll write some more detailed posts about what all we visited, where we stayed and ate, etc, so be sure to look out for those in-depth adventures soon.
We had 2 weeks to spend travelling all over Italy. Planning a day-to-day trip was quite the task. We used the Rick Steve’s Italy book and also Pinterest to help find things we should visit and what we could pass on if time didn’t allow. Planning took a really long time. It was SO overwhelming because we didn’t really know where to begin! So hopefully this post will be helpful for the first time Italy traveler! 🙂
We planned to spend 5 days in Rome, and honestly, I thought that was way too much time there… little did I know, we would run out of time and miss out of on some fun things!
Besides Rome, we also visited Florence, Siena (day trip), Pompei (day trip), Pisa (quick stop to take a few photos), Cinque Terre, and Venice. Here’s a list of 10 places we visited that you must see if you go to Italy (in no particular order):
- St. Peter’s/Sistine Chapel/Vatican – By far, St. Peter’s Basilica was the most amazing thing we saw in all of Italy. You must see it. Please make time for it. It is really hard to put into words the stunning beauty of this place, and the pictures absolutely do not do it justice at all. Not one bit! When we walked in, it was like nothing we had imagined. I had read a lot online about how beautiful and large it was, but I really did not know what to expect. The place is huge, and by huge, I mean enormous and overwhelming and just ridiculously gorgeous. It is just stunning. We spent a few hours in here, and I wish we could have stayed longer, but they kicked us out. It is definitely on our list of places to visit again, and we hope to climb the stairs to the top this time. In the first photo below, can you see how small the people are on the left? That’s how enormous this Basilica is. It is so beautiful, and you must see it in person!
The Sistine Chapel: We skipped a lot of the museum just to see the Sistine Chapel. There were a ton of people, so be prepared and definitely be patient! We were shoulder to shoulder in some parts of the museum. It was CRAZY crowded. Photos aren’t allowed; however, most people were taking them. You just had to be careful not to get caught while taking them. My husband took some, but I was definitely a chicken, so I don’t have any to share. We had rented some audio devices that told us about everything in the painting, and it was very helpful. We don’t normally rent those, but for the Sistine Chapel, it was worth it if you have a few bucks to spare.
Vatican: We attended on a Wednesday when the Pope blessed the crowd. It was a pretty neat experience, especially to say you saw the Pope in person and were blessed by him. 😉 We waited in a long line for quite some time, but make sure you get there early, so you can get a seat; otherwise, you’ll spend hours standing. I’m not sure if I would want to go there again on a Wednesday, but it was a neat experience, and I would definitely recommend it for a first-timer. You should plan to spend an entire day in Vatican City. There is so much to see.
- Colosseum – The Colosseum is definitely a must see if you visit Rome. We booked a tour with Walks of Italy, so we could go underground and see it from below. That was pretty interesting. The lady we had was very informative and knew what she was talking about, and she spoke great English. If you want a little nicer experience definitely book a tour with them. It was worth the money for sure! You’ll find out a lot of interesting facts and see things you wouldn’t normally see without the tour.
- Siena – After St. Peter’s Basilica, the Siena Duomo was my second favorite church we visited, and we saw a ton of churches. The outside is absolutely stunning and has so much detail, and the inside, well, that striped marble is EVERYTHING! I loved, loved, loved this church, and I would love to spend more time there again. It was raining the day we visited, so we didn’t spend very much time outside wandering around, but next time, I’d love to stay overnight there.
- Cinque Terre – If you’ve seen a photo of the Italian coast, you’ve probably seen Cinque Terre, Positano or the Amalfi Coast. We chose Cinque Terre because it was on the way to Venice, and we loved it there. We booked a stay at Camere Giuliano in Vernazza, and it was a really nice place to stay for a couple of nights. He was incredibly helpful and the restaurants he recommended were great! I definitely agree with the high rating of Camere Giuliano on tripadvisor. We really enjoyed our stay, even though one of the days didn’t have the best weather, but we would definitely love to go back to Vernazza. It was very, very relaxing there.
- The David – If you visit Florence, the statue of David is a must see. My husband may or may not have taken a few naughty pictures while we were there. 😉
- Ride a gondola along the Grand Canal – Oh, Venice! I have always, always, always wanted to visit Venice. It was probably #1 on my bucket list (in my head), so you can say I had huge expectations for visiting this place. It was definitely my favorite place out of Rome, Florence and Venice that we visited on this 2 week trip. Every image I had in my head of what it would be like was met. We saw many things in Venice, we got lost and walked to the other end of the island, and we rode a gondola! I highly recommend a gondola ride along the Grand Canal during sunset. We had a great gondolier who had a nice personality and spoke a lot about everything we were seeing as we rode by. If you visit Venice, please ride a gondola. You will NOT regret it!
- St. Mark’s – This Basilica is in Venice and is covered in mosaic tiles. The way all of those tiles create the images is incredibly amazing and quite unbelievable. If you visit this church, please consider going around 11:30am when the lights are turned on for an hour. We got there right on time, and when the lights turned out, it made the place look incredibly different. It is definitely a must see when it is lit up. There were signs that said “no photographs,” but they were not strict with that and allowed photos at the time when we visited. See all of those images on the ceiling? Those are little individual mosaic tiles that make up the images. Pretty impressive, right?
- Pantheon – The Pantheon was a really neat place to see in Rome. I highly recommend visiting it once. It’s huge as you can see from the photo below. I’m not sure if we would go again, but it should be on a list of must see at least once. It doesn’t take long either, so be sure to fit it into your schedule, and definitely be prepared for a crowd. It was a bit hard to photograph with people everywhere.
- Trevi Fountain – The Trevi Fountain was undergoing repairs when we visited in March (as were other touristy places, such as the Spanish Steps), but it was still oh so beautiful even with all of the scaffolding surrounding it. It’s definitely on our list to see again, and hopefully next time it will be fully operational.
- Burano – We took the ferry from Venice to the island of Burano. Burano is the island with all of the bright colors, clothes drying on the lines strung from building to building, and it’s also known for its delicate lace. It’s such a happy, bright place to visit and it can get crowded at times. I would definitely make time to walk around Burano and grab a small meal. I really loved it here, and it was a great way to end our 2 week trip!
Those are my top 10 places we visited while on our trip! 2 weeks! It was the most amazing 14 days of our lives, and we can’t wait to go back! We talk about it all of the time, so hopefully, we can make another trip soon before we have some little ones. 🙂 What places would you add to this list? I hope to visit Milan to see The Last Supper, Positano, Lake Como and possibly the Amalfi Coast next time, as well as Rome and Venice again! Florence was great as well, and I didn’t really include much of it in this post, but it’s a must visit, too. A bigger recap of our Italy trip will be posted hopefully soon!