It's impossible to see all of Italy in a short amount of time, you could spend 2 weeks in Rome alone!
When your boyfriend comes home and says "My boss wants to send me to Italy to inspect a piece of equipment we are purchasing, he said you could come are you in?" Um hell yes, you don't have to ask me twice! Talk about a chance of a lifetime! Italy had only been in my dreams, and those dreams were about to become a reality. Thankfully my superiors at the architecture firm I was working for at the time were all adventurous people and encouraged me to take this opportunity, even at such short notice!
Planning a trip like this is daunting. There are so many places and so many things to do in ever city, how do you even choose? We started with where we were going to be staying which was Bergamo (the place where San Pellagrino sparkling water is made). I used Pinterest to create an inspiration board. We tried to pack as many places in 9 days as we could. One advantage we had was a rental car from Derrick's company.
Day #1 Bergamo
We didn't have anything crazy in mind four our first day, we simply walked out of our hotel and decided to just start walking and see where that would get us.
We soon found ourselves among giant buildings as if we were tiny ants. The buildings were small shops and storefronts, many of which we browsed through. Taking our time soaking all of this in, being in a foreign country and just how different life was like here. Especially stopping for some fresh gelato, a must in Italy!
Day #2 Bellagio
Through my research, Lake Como was said to have been beautiful. Although it was quite a drive, we didn't care. Upon arrival early in the morning, what we had read was true, the lake was absolutely stunning.
We had decided to book a boat tour of the lake and to kill time we had some breakfast at a local restaurant. One significant thing we learned here was that an American breakfast of bacon, eggs, or even cereal is something you probably won't find. Pastries, cheese, espresso and baguettes are main staples here, all of which were divine. After breakfast we wandered around the streets which were empty this early in the morning, which lent the perfect opportunity for some photos.
We couldn't wait to revisit these shops once they opened later in the afternoon after our boat tour! Walking these streets felt like you were in a movie. It was everything we had imagined and probably a little bit more. The cobblestone streets, lush green vines, colorful flower pots and brightly colored buildings were something we couldn't get enough of. It was finally time for our boat tour, we were kindly greeted by the charming owners, and boarded a beautiful wooden boat. The boat tour consisted of a ride across the lake where we had docked at a little boutique restaurant in a private cove that had several tables arranged on an outdoor patio with a perfect view of the lake. We enjoyed the most amazing lunch of handmade pasta and seafood, accompanied by red wine of course! We were soon picked back up to continue our tour of the lake.
Once the tour had ended we stopped for a visit at the iGardini De Villa Melzi, a beautiful public garden. We strolled around the grounds and took plenty of photos. Taking full advantage of the sunshine was the top priority since the forecast for the remainder of the week wasn't looking too promising.
Day #3 Venice
Venice was about a 3 hour drive from Bergamo where we were staying. Once you arrive at the docks, the ticket process took us a minute to figure out since nothing was labeled. Once we got our tickets we parked and waited for the water taxi. When we arrived on the island we were instantly taken aback by how interesting and amazing it was. We decided to just start walking and get lost to see where the day took us.
We avoided major tourist areas for a while, searching for the Grand Canal, which was awesome and had a great time admiring the architecture. We soon landed upon the Basilica which was flooded with tourists from 2 cruise ships that had docked. I suggest booking tickets in advance to tour the Basilica, the line was a mile long and with limited time on the island, it was something we had to skip but would definitely do next time! Gondola ride was next on our bucket list, because well...we were in Venice!
Day #4 Florence
We woke up at 5:00am to catch a train to Florence. Trains are by far one of the easiest ways to get around, once you figure out how the system works! With neither of us knowing any Italian, the language barrier made things a little more complicated. Upon arriving in Florence, the sheer size of the buildings amazed us. Everything was so tremendously huge and the streets were very narrow. I felt as if it would have taken an entire family of Hulks to open some of the doors to the buildings.
After stopping for some Gelato, we turned a corner and there it was...The Piazza Del Dumo, the most gorgeous, ornate church we'd ever seen. The incredible amount of detail, color and size of that structure was beyond words. We were able to walk around the interior and take several photos, the line of people wrapped around the exterior of the building for a chance to go to the top. We skipped the opportunity because time was limited! We had 9 days to see 5 cities so we were on a mission to see as many things as possible!
Even if you aren't an architect or aren't in love with architecture, there's something about these structures that can really capture ones interest. It's hard not to have an appreciation for such detailed craftsmanship. The labor that went into these buildings without the modern day technologies we have today is something to really be inspired by.
We didn't arrive to Florence until around 2:30pm so we didn't have much time to do a whole lot of sight seeing. Quickly heading to our next stop, Piazza Della Signoria, the main square of Florence. Several large buildings consisting of retail shops, hotels, and historic statues made up this main square. The Church of Santa Croche and Ponte Vecchio were also close by for a quick photo opp! The Ponte Vecchio bridge that spans across the Arno River is a popular tourist attraction. Several shops are built upon the bridge, most of which are jewlery shops.
After all of the sight seeing in Florence, it was time for dinner and to bed early because we had a train to catch the next morning for Rome.
Day #5 Rome (first day)
The train ride from Florence to Rome is about an hour and a half, which goes by relatively quickly. We had some time before checking into the hotel so we grabbed a cab and headed to the Pantheon. Stepping out of the cab, looking up at a building that was built in 113-125 AD, made an immediate impression. The marble columns had to be 5' thick in diameter. This was built strictly by human hand.
After taking it all in, we headed over to the Trevi Fountain which was just around the corner. The crystal clear water glistened against the bright white monuments. A very short visit to that site was enough, it was flooded with tourists. There were several shops in the area that we stopped in before heading on. One last stop of the day before heading to our hotel was the Altare della Patria (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel ll). This monument was built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. We were able to take the stairs to the very top for an incredible view!
Day #6 Rome (second day)
On the agenda for our second day in Rome was to see the Vatican. I wish we had more time to spend looking around but when we arrived, they were closing early for a ceremony. Soaking up the precious time we had in this place was unforgettable.
The amount of detail on the ceilings was breathtaking. The floors, walls, ceiling, windows, everything was so large the photos would never do justice. Just when you think you've seen the biggest or most ornate building, you walk into the Vatican and nothing compares. Staying until the doors were going to close, we decided to continue our journey to the Castle of St. Angelo. We hadn't booked any tours so sight seeing and enjoying the tastes of Italy was all we had in mind.
Day #7 Rome (third day)
If you are going to Rome, you have to book the underground tour of the Colosseum. The tour takes you under the arena, onto the arena floor that is partially built out, and up into the stands for a grand view. This tour was nothing short of amazing.
It wasn't long after the tour had started, we had to leave when the second half began. Our train was headed back to Bergamo, our trip was almost over.
Day #8 Bergamo
Since the day we arrived in Italy, we didn't spend much time exploring the city where our hotel was located, exploring this small town seemed liked a good idea. Much more relaxed pace than the last few days racing around the towns to see as much as we could in a small amount of time.
Derrick had found this tiny rail car called the funicular that connects the lower city of Bergamo to the upper city. The ride up through this tunnel where the walls are covered in lush, green vines was so fun and quaint! After exiting the train, we made our way to the Venetian Piazza. The Piazza was lined with restaurants, wine bars, cafes and pastry shops! You could also see the Piazza Duomo, an architecturally gorgeous Chapel. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the town of Bergamo, enjoying our last day of this incredible adventure!