Oct
20

Trip Recap: Italy

7

I mentioned in my Iceland recap that I had no expectations of it going in, so everything was a surprise to me. Italy was exciting in the opposite way. I’ve dreamed of visiting Italy for years, so it was surreal to be there in person and experience so many places that I’d researched and seen pictures of! This is the part of the trip that I was looking forward to the most before we left, and I was not disappointed. Italy really is sooo charming, beautiful, and full of character. Plus, I took Italian in college so it was fun to hear everyone speaking Italian and try to understand and communicate with them.

Colosseum

The main places I wanted to see were Tuscany and Cinque Terre, but since there weren’t any flights from Iceland to Florence, we started in Rome. Looking back, I would probably do that differently, as we only had one night in Rome so it was kind of a hectic start (we probably could have just switched airlines in London or something). But we did get to check off a few of the sights in Rome, including the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Colosseum. Yay!

Postcard perfect Tuscany

The next morning, we rented a car and road tripped through Tuscany…which I LOVED.

Val d’Orcia: the classic Tuscan landscape

We stayed in the Val d’Orcia area, which is what I consider to be the classic Tuscan landscape: rolling hills with charming brick farmhouses surrounded by cypress trees (my favorite). It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Cypress trees in Tuscany

I seriously could not get enough pictures of those trees. These are only a fraction of the pictures we have from this area….but I mean, what do you expect when the scenery is this enchanting???

Cypress trees in Val d’Orcia, Tuscany

Our trip to Tuscany

Italy trip recap

Italy trip recap

The town we stayed in was called San Quirico. It's right in the heart of Val d’Orcia and was the perfect hub. We stayed in this Airbnb, which was one of our favorites from the whole trip…partly because our host was super friendly and left us a delicious homemade tart. :) But the town itself was pretty dang cute, too!

Tuscany

San Quirico d'Orcia

Doorway

Siena, Italy

On the way out from Tuscany, we stopped in Siena for lunch. This is the cathedral in the center of town…I loved that striped tower.

Italy trip recap

Then we spent one night in Florence! The Duomo was SO impressive in person, way bigger than I had realized and full of so much detail.

Le Menagere -- cute restaurant in Florence

We ate at Le Menagere, this lovely restaurant/flower shop/boutique. The decor was super cute and our food was yummy, too.

Flower display

Florence, Italy

That night, we walked along the river, up and down the many bridges. There’s something about lights reflecting on the water that feels so magical and romantic to me. I loved it.

Our trip to Cinque Terre

Then the next morning, we woke up early and took the train to Cinque Terre! This was my number one destination pick, so even though we had a bunch of quick turnarounds in Italy, I thought it was worth it to have three nights there. I loved it as much as I had hoped (maybe even more). The colorful buildings, bright blue water, relaxed pace, and the food--my mouth is salivating just thinking about it. We had so much tasty seafood (including fresh anchovies--who would have thought that they could be so delicious?), amazing pesto and focaccia bread, and the best gelato I’ve ever had in my life.

Gelato is always appropriate

If you’re heading to Cinque Terre, Gelateria Vernazza was our favorite. We got gelato there twice a day, every day. And every single flavor was SO GOOD.

Beautiful blue water in Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre is a a string of five fishing villages on the Italian Riviera coast. You can’t drive cars between them, so the only ways to get around are to hike, take a train, or go by boat. We took a train to get there, which was super packed (as in standing room only, with inches between you and the people around you) and then the bathroom overflowed and pee went everywhere. Needless to say, we decided to hike or take a boat the rest of the time.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Vernazza harbor

The village we stayed in was Vernazza, which was my favorite. It’s super picturesque and had the most variety, with lots of charming buildings, vineyards, great restaurants, a natural harbor, and a little beach. We climbed to the top of that watch tower (Castle Doria), which served as the town's lookout back in the day, when the villages would get raided by pirates.

Monterosso Beach, Cinque Terre

Our second favorite village was Monterosso, the biggest (although it’s still tiny), with the best beach.

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

And our third favorite was Riomaggiore. All of the villages had similar buildings but I liked how Riomaggiore’s came right down to the water.

Cappuccinos

Vernazza

Even though our time in Italy was more of a “sampler platter” (except Cinque Terre--I think three nights was perfect there), I’m glad we got to see and experience as much as we did. It was all amazing! I figure we can always go back and stay for a longer time in certain places to get the “full meal” experience, but once we have kids and get older, it will probably be hard to do a trip like this, with so many different destinations packed into a short amount of time. So I’m glad we did it now! Plus this way, we didn’t feel like any of our time was wasted, and we know which places we want to go back to for a longer chunk of time.

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  1. Posted by All things nice... on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

    Great pics! I got to Italy this September again and Cinque Terre for one day, it was so beautiful, We also visited Rome and Naples. You can check out my pics on my blog if you like. Cinque Terre is so picturesque, would love to go back again. The middle of the summer must be overcrowded though.

    All things nice...
    • Posted by Aileen on Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

      Thank you! That sounds like a super fun trip. I love traveling in the fall too--it’s still nice out, but not nearly as crowded as the summer.
  2. Posted by Debbie on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

    Love your photo's! If we decide to visit Italy in May we will let you know and get tips. We will be going to the conference in Frankfurt Germany, then to Greece, also for a conference. We are going to go to one other country after that. I think just about anywhere in Europe is so fun to see. So glad you had such a great time.
    • Posted by Aileen on Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

      Yay! That sounds so fun. I think you’re right, just about anywhere in Europe will be lovely. Let me know if you choose Italy--I’d be happy to share more tips :)
  3. Posted by Debbie on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

    P.S. Just that flower shop might be good enough for me :)!
  4. Posted by Adeline on Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

    Hello, I read your blog roy several years now and I really appreciate your way of life.
    I would like to know how did you prepare ryour trip ? how did you choose your rent car? your room? I am impressed! If you have some advice, I take them!
    Thank you!
    Adeline
    • Posted by Aileen on Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

      Hi Adeline! Thanks for being a reader. :) The main tools we used when planning our trip were TripAdvisor (for finding restaurants and things to do) and Airbnb (for places to stay). We rented our car in Italy through Europcar. I also used Instagram quite a bit to find ideas and things to do, using hashtags and the “places” tab. Hope that helps!
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