What is there to say about Italy? It is one of the most gorgeous/delicious/rich countries that I’ve ever been to. The food, the people, the history, all of it is unique and amazing! This trip was focused mainly on central Italy, but we do have plans to eventually visit the rest of the country.
Day one: We flew out of LAX, had a quick layover in Germany, and then finally landed in Florence. Now, Brad and I didn’t know any Italian (aside from wine and bathroom) before our trip. So just getting a cab to our Airbnb was a bit of a challenge. However, we figured it out enough to find the house, and check in with our host. She recommended several places for dinner, and then left us to explore.
We decided to try one of the places on her recommendation list, and sat down for our first Italian meal! I don’t remember the name of the place, but I do remember the meal. Brad ordered wild boar, which neither of us had tried before, and it was DELICIOUS.
**I should also notate that this entire trip was before my shift to a plant based diet**
After dinner, we roamed around the streets, stopping for gelato, and taking a few moments to listen to music in the middle of Ponte Vecchio. It was magical.
Day two:We only planned on staying in Florence for 1 night, so it was time to keep moving.We walked to the train station, and then started heading to Rome. Since we got an early start to the day, we arrived with a ton of time left to explore the city. We did somewhat of a fast paced walking tour on our own, hitting all of the highlights (Trevi Fountain, The Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Pantheon). I should also mention that we were there in late July. So it was hot, humid, and packed with tourists. If you can arrange a trip before or after summertime, I’d recommend that.
Day Three:We woke up, grabbed a cappuccino (side note, cappuccinos in Italy are far superior than the U.S. version) and walked back to the train station. We were heading out of town for our next excursion, to a small town called Frascati. I had found a wine tasting/tour experience through Airbnb (Merumalia Winery) that promised great wine and great views, which turned out to be 100% accurate.
After arriving in Frascati, the owner of the winery picked us up, and drove us back to the property. She even gave us a little history lesson on the way about this quaint hillside village. Although I didn’t think this tour could get any better, we were greeted by not only the staff, but also Achille the wine dog.
Achille guided us through the distillery, in and around the grape vines, and then we sat down for a tasting. We were accompanied by a few other young travelers from around the world, while we sipped on tasty whites/reds/blends and soaked in the view.
We eventually made our way back into Rome, and had an entirely separate adventure trying to find a small restaurant that had been recommended by the folks at Merumalia. You won’t find it on Trip Advisor, and there’s no English on the menu. But if you’re feeling up to the hunt, the name is El Segundo Tradicionale, and their pork tortellini was divine.
Day Four:This morning called for another relocation, so we took the train North to Venice! This was our longest ride yet, took us about three hours to get there. However, as soon as you get off of the train, it’s like a flashback to a James Bond movie. Picture old buildings, surrounded by an intricate canal system, and narrow “streets” in between. Venice is SUCH a unique city!
We checked into our Airbnb, and started to wander around. We stumbled upon several (completely free) art exhibits that had been set up all around the city. Some were really cool, some were very strange, and some we just didn’t understand. Either way, it was fun zig zagging through buildings and randomly finding new things!
We ended the day eating some gelato by the water. I also feel compelled to warn you that the water does indeed sometimes splash on to the streets. I found that out first hand when I decided to sit on the edge and enjoy the sunset, oops.
Day five:After waking up and having our cappuccino, we joined a large tour group and set sail for the three neighboring islands of Venice; Murano, Burano, and Torcello. Now, if I’m being honest, this was probably my least favorite activity of the trip. We had booked this excursion through Trip Advisor, and it felt like we were just being herded from place to place, while the guide had their flag/microphone set up. It didn’t feel nearly as authentic as the Airbnb experience at Merumalia. I’m still glad that we went, but if large groups aren’t your thing, I would avoid this one.
In a nutshell, Murano is known for glass blowing, Burano is known for lace, and Torcello is home to Basilic de Santa Maria. One bonus, they all have cool photo ops:
Day six:Time for another train ride, this time we were heading for Lucca! Lucca is a smaller town in the Tuscany region. We researched quite a bit about where to visit in Tuscany, and Lucca was the winner because 1) there was an awesome cooking class that we wanted to attend and 2) half of the city is walled in (remains from when they originally built the city).
We checked into our Airbnb in the afternoon, then spent the rest of the day strolling around the walls (there’s a whole bike/walking path up there!), eating fresh bread, and drinking Aperol Spritz. I can’t believe we got into the Spritz game so late into our trip, but Lucca is where we first discovered these tasty cocktails!
Day seven:Our first morning in Lucca was spent getting cappuccinos (of course) and then walking down to a piazza where we met Chef Giuseppe. Chef Giuseppe is the owner of Extra Virgin Cooking Class, which focuses on fresh/locally sourced cuisine in a small group setting (no more than 8 people). Chef took us around to a few stores where we literally bought ingredients for the class that day, while also sampling focaccia and spices.
After we had the supplies, we went to Chef’s estate in the heart of Lucca. He gave us a little lesson on the importance of quality olive oil, did a tasting of honey and cheeses, then we got to work! We made risotto, zucchini flower timbale, hand rolled pici (pasta), and panacotta, all while sipping on wine and learning new cooking techniques.
This experience was truly the definition of authentic Italy, totally immersed into their lifestyle and culture. If you find yourself in Lucca, do yourself a favor and BOOK THIS CLASS
After leaving Chef Giuseppe, we strolled around Lucca and found ourselves in the Torture Museum. It was a strange transition from the cooking class, but still worth the visit if you have some spare time in the city. Especially if you’re a history buff, ton of cool exhibits in there.
Day eight:This was our “free day” in Lucca. We purposely didn’t schedule anything ahead of time, and woke up really feeling the Tuscany heat (again, try to avoid July if you can). With that being said, we realized we were less than an hour away from the coast. A dip in the sea sounded like the perfect adventure for the day! We hopped on a train, made the quickest pit stop in Pisa for the obligatory leaning tower picture, then continued on to Viareggio. Viareggio is a small beach town located on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. There are a few beach etiquette rules that apply when you’re in Italy.
The lounge chairs are NOT free, each company will have a different color scheme set up to indicate where their portion of the beach is, and you will be quickly asked to relocate if you’re in the wrong section. It’s a whole process, but the water felt oh so good that day!
Day nine:Sadly, this was our last day in Italy. We did a final run around the walls in the morning, grabbed a cappuccino, and then headed back to Florence. I remember the train ride pretty vividly, mainly because we were passing a TON of sunflower fields, and they were all blooming. It was the perfect scene for our last afternoon.
After checking in for our flight, we sat down at one of the airport restaurants (which turned out to be delicious) and started reminiscing over the past week. We finished out the trip talking about our favorite memories while sipping on wine, and eating more cheese; like a true Italian.