I hold a special place in my heart for Italy. I spent a summer studying abroad in Rome right before my junior year in college. And while I’d seriously love to sit here and discuss why everyone should study abroad - since I've not only studied abroad once, but twice - I’ll save that for another time. While studying in Rome, I was lucky enough to get to visit a good amount of the country on weekends. I really feel like I got to take in the country as a whole and not just a city or two for a few days. I got to spend weeks roaming through Italy falling more in love with every place I visited. Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Sicily. Each place was beautiful. Really you could go anywhere in Italy and fall in love, but I’ve chosen 5 places that made me fall in love with Italy.
Rome is what dreams are made of. Really, living in Rome was like a fantasy. I saw the Coliseum everyday (twice a day in fact) since it was on my way to and from school. Every corner of every street seemed to have a hundred year old story just waiting to be told. The Trevi Fountain, the Coliseum and the Vatican are all such spectacular sights. We've all had those moments where something so famous and highly recommended can disappoint, but everything in Rome lived up to its reputation if not exceeded them. Spend as much time as you can here and soak it all in!
If you decide to travel anywhere besides the main cities of Rome, Florence and Venice in Italy, make it Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is a small region near Pisa made up of 5 small towns along the coast. Cinque Terre actually literally means five lands in Italian. They are the most quaint little towns. You can hike between the 5 cities, which takes a few hours. I’d estimate about 4 hours in total. The longest hike, which is the one I did, is between the fourth and fifth cities, Vernazza and Monterosso. Vernazza (pictured above) was my personal favorite. Its brightly colored homes were such a juxtaposition against the mountain meeting the ocean. The hike takes you along the coast through vineyards nestled in the side of the mountain with breathtaking views. It’s not super strenuous but did take about 2 hours.
Florence is in so many ways just like a miniature version of Rome. All of the niceties of a thriving Italian city without all the hustle and bustle of a busy city. If you have the time make sure you climb to the top of the Duomo. Its 463 steps and a little tiring, but so worth the beautiful views. Don’t miss the leather market.
The Amalfi Coast is just as you would imagine it. It has some of the most picturesque views I’ve ever experienced. The blue of the water was unreal. I visited Naples, Sorrento and Capri. I’d say Naples is somewhere to not spend much time. If you get a chance to go to Capri, take a boat cruise and visit the blue grotto. You won’t regret it.
My absolute favorite thing to do in Venice is to get lost. I mean put the map away and just wander. You really don’t know the amazing things you can find when you’re simply just taking in the scenery and not worrying about the end destination. It's really easy to find your way back too. Just listen for the bells from St. Marks Square and follow them. Venice is such an amazing place and you can help be think about how awesome it is that a whole city was built on water. A canal ride is a must, trust me its so much better than the ones at the Venetian in Vegas.
I've been dying to plan a trip back to Italy to visit these places again and experience that feeling of awe one more time. It's so hard though since I want to go everywhere. Go somewhere where I've already been and loved or go to a brand new place in the world? The jury's still out for that one. Point is, if you haven't been to Italy, go now. You'll fall in love with the people, the land, the culture and the history guaranteed.
Yours Truly // Shannon