Every European probably comes to Bella Italia at least once in his life. There is simply so much beauty to see in the land of Dolce Vita. For once, however, this article is not about insider tips, but rather about how you can plan a great route through Italy with limited time and budget, on which you will not miss any sights. This is my second road trip through Italy - the almost identical route as the first one - and I just can't get enough of the flair of the Italian towns and the streets of Tuscany.
Have you ever strolled through the streets of Rome in a summer night? Did you find a pizzeria in the last moment with a few tables in front of the door that was still open? These are the moments that make Italy so special for me. For a visit to Rome you should plan at least four days to see the most beautiful corners of the city.
Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele
The famous monument Vittorio Emanuele (the typical picture from Rome, with the many steps in front of it, which is not the Spanish Steps) is only a ten minute walk from the railway station Roma Termini. So it is the perfect start for a day in Rome and gives you a great overview of the city.
From the Monumento Vittorio Emanuele it is not far to the Colosseum and the Forum Romanum. The ticket for both sights is combined. So if you missed to make a reservation or to book online, you better queue up in the much shorter queue at the Forum Romanum. However, even here, especially in the summer months, there can be several hours of waiting time. So you better try to plan ahead.
Pantheon and Spanish steps
If you visit a church somewhere on each of your trips, you will probably reach a point where you no longer want to enter one at all. Especially if you're not a religious person. For the Pantheon you should make an exception, because it is really beautiful. The architecture with the glass dome is unique and really gives the place something magical.
Only a few hundred meters away you will find the famous Spanish Steps. This is a perfect meeting place for the evening. Many people come together to set off from there to the surrounding restaurants or bars.
Granted, I could have lived with not having seen the fountain but it's quite nice to look at and besides, you'll walk past it sooner or later anyway. It's best to throw a few cents in the water while you're there, then you can cross this off the list too. The Trevi Fountain is definitely more beautiful in the evening, when the number of visitors dwindles and the atmosphere is more romantic.
The beautiful Trastevere district is located directly on the river and is therefore the perfect location for a drink after dinner. There are also restaurants there, but they are not really the best culinary ones. But sitting at a bar and enjoying the atmosphere by the illuminated water is definitely worth it.
In Vatican City, you can spend either a few hours or a whole day. Depending on how much time you have, you can either visit only St. Peter's Square or also the cathedral itself. Vatican City was one of the places I had only ever seen in pictures and couldn't believe that I was suddenly really standing in the middle of St. Peter's Square. In any case, it is an impressive place. For food you should look for something outside, because the restaurants nearby have absolutely crazy prices.
Florence is my absolute favourite city in Italy. The picturesque roads along the river and the view over Tuscany. Every time I am there, I think that there is no more beautiful place to be in summer than in Italy. Florence is an Italian dream.
Piazzale Michel Angelo
You have the most beautiful view over the city and the bordering Tuscany from Piazzale Michel Angelo. Especially at sunset I cannot imagine a more beautiful place. For the early risers among you: At sunrise it is a bit emptier and just as beautiful. I know this because we slept up there one night in our car and luckily we didn't get caught. Because that's gonna be really expensive in Italy.
Already the way up is fantastic and offers a great view over the city.
Even if it is unfortunately always completely overcrowded - where else can you shop in the middle of a bridge? The Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge over the 200 kilometres long Arno river. It was built, as well as the directly adjacent buildings, already in the 14th century. From some distance the bridge serves as a great photo motif. If you climb over the small wall on the river here, you can sit directly on the riverbed and enjoy the view of the Ponte Vecchio at sunset.
One of the best road trips of my life was the one through Tuscany. Rent a car in Pisa or Florence and drive, with a stop in Siena, to the other city. This is a great round trip and in between you can stop wherever you like. A great stopover is the Agrihotel Elisabetta, a vineyard in the middle of Tuscany. While swimming in the pool you enjoy the view over Tuscany and in the evening fresh Italian food on the sun terrace.
This is how you imagine Italy: small alleyways, a view from above over the wide Tuscany and a cathedral in the middle. In Siena you have the feeling that time has stopped. In the summer months, however, it becomes difficult to avoid the many tourists here.
There you are strolling through the beautiful colourful alleys of Pisa and suddenly there it is: the Leaning Tower of Pisa, right in the centre. However, I find it hard to understand why it is said that there is nothing to see in Pisa except this tower. I could have easily spent several days in the small town. During the day you can go on trips to the surroundings and in the evening you can have dinner in one of the countless pizzerias or ice cream places.
A great activity is of course watching the many people at the Leaning Tower of Pisa performing acrobatic feats to take a funny picture in front of the tower.
5. Cinque Terre
You have probably seen them too, the dreamlike pictures of this place in Italy, with many colorful little houses, built into the cliffs, directly at the sea. This is Cinque Terre. To say one thing in advance: it does not look quite as picturesque there as in the photos. This is mainly due to the unbelievable mass of tourists that crowd through the narrow alleyways. In any case, finding a quiet place is going to be difficult here. I probably wouldn't have lasted longer than a day there.
Would you also like to take a day trip from Pisa or Florence to Cinque Terre? Then you best buy a train ticket to La Spezia. From there, a regional train runs to all five villages of the Cinque Terre. With the Cinque Terre Card you can travel between the villages as often as you like. If one place is enough for you, it is cheaper to buy a single ticket. For a day trip I would recommend Manarola exclusively. In my opinion this is the most beautiful of the five places and it is crowded in all of them.
To Venice, I developed a kind of love-hate relationship right in the beginning. When you arrive at the big train station and take the boat through the canals to your accommodation, you can't help but feel like you're on a film set. Everything seems so artificial and simulated and at the same time fantastically beautiful. There is water everywhere, on many terraces you sit practically directly at the canal. But at the same time, Venice is one of the most crowded and overpriced cities there is. If you are not careful, you will pay eight Euros for a scoop of ice cream.
We were lucky with our Airbnb, right at the Piazza San Marco. The room was cheap and our host even brought us breakfast in bed in the morning.
Piazza San Marco
Feeding pigeons once at St. Mark's Square - that is certainly on the bucket list for some people. You don't have to exert yourself for this: the animals come flying without shyness directly onto your arm or head. The Piazza San Marco itself is probably the only big plaza in Venice and, located right at the canal with its gondolas, picturesquely beautiful.
Do you know any more places in Italy that you should not miss?