Ever heard of Prada, or maybe Parmesan cheese? Italy is home to so many iconic fashion brands, sports cars, foods, wines and so much more. If the phrase “wine is cheaper than water” doesn’t convince you enough to hop on a plane to Italy, here’s a few of Italy’s top destinations that hopefully will!
- Florence, Italy: The city of gold and leather
With the great summer weather, this city tends to fill up with tourists. Avoid the long lines by getting tickets in advance, starting your days early, and prioritizing places/attractions you want to see most. Make a general schedule so you stay on track and get to take advantage of all that Florence has to offer!
-Osteria delle Tres Panche: Four cheese truffle ravioli, and their spicy maccheroni pasta are to DIE FOR! They have incredible lemon chicken, meatballs, and cheesecake! There are only 3 benches in the entire place, and this is a GREAT place to avoid the tourist frenzy since its mostly locals eating here!
*MUST make reservations in advance!
-Gusta Pizza: Incredible Neapolitan style pizzas. They have a special pesto pizza, but only available if you ask for it!
-Al Antico Vinaio: Stop in here for a quick sandwich when you’re on the go! You can either create your own sandwich or trust the men behind the counter to create one for you.
*TIP: Don’t go at peak lunch hours or you will have a line. Go around 11 am or 2/3 pm.
-13 Gobbi: -Great for a typical Tuscan meal at very reasonable prices. Pictured above is their famous rigatoni with red sauce and lots of cheese. Looks simple but tastes phenomenal!
*Make a reservation! This place is always busy.
-Sesto at the Westin: Go to the restaurant, Sesto, at sunset for an amazing view of Florence along the river with delicious appertivo (Italian version of happy hour)!
-Piazzale Michelangelo: Skip the steep climb to the top of the Duomo (the Cathedral) and hike up to the top of this Piazzale! The Duomo climb of 400 stairs is pretty claustrophobic, and there is almost always a line. Instead, cross over the River and see the entirety of Florence from this great lookout.
Our recommendation: Take a bottle of wine with you and watch the sunset up here!
-Galleria dell’Accademia: Home to Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, the David. Go early or get your tickets ahead of time. Otherwise, you will be waiting in line for a while!
-Ponte Vecchio: Famous bridge over the Arno River lined with jewelry stores. Beware: some of the vendors are selling inauthentic pieces so be cautious!
Day Trips: It’s super easy to take a day trip from Florence by train or even bus departing out of Santa Maria Novella train station!
-Cinque Terre: travel here by bus or train to hike between 5 cliff side towns on the coast. Pesto was first created here!
-Milan: The fashion capital of the world is only an hour and a half train ride from Florence!
-Pisa: less than an hour away by bus. **FYI, there’s nothing to do here besides the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
-Bologna: 30 minutes away by train, great for pasta Bolognese and shopping.
-Venice and the gondolas are a short train ride away!
-The San Lorenzo Leather Market: very negotiable prices for all things leather! This outdoor market is next to the Central Market, so you can grab a quick bite to eat during your shopping spree. This area is very touristy, so watch out for pick-pocketers and know that you can easily bargain!
-Cross over the Ponte Vecchio towards Pitti Palace, and there are a lot of higher end leather stores for nice jackets, purses, gloves, and more. A few personal faves were Madova (for gloves), Anna’s, and Parri’s (for leather jackets and purses). These stores line the main street so you can’t miss them!
- Tuscany, Italy: A Wine Tour a Day, Keeps the Doctor Away
Sit back, relax, and enjoy Tuscany’s best vino! Tuscany is famous for producing Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines. Enjoy wine tastings at these world-renowned vineyards with a magnificent view.
If you have time, take a cooking class and learn about traditional Tuscan cooking. Traditional foods include ribollita (a thick vegetable soup), bruschetta, and biscotti!
Beware: Tuscans do not use salt in their bread! Tasted pretty bland to us, but this is a longstanding tradition of the region.
- Positano, Italy: Life’s a climb, but the view is great
Positano, a vertical town along the Amalfi Coast, is known for its colorful houses, fashionable boutiques, delicious restaurants, luxurious hotels, and breathtaking views. Oh yeah, and the crazy amount of stairs! To get to most places, you have to climb stairs, as cars are limited to the one and only main road.
This small town nestled in the cliffs is a MUST see. The main season to visit starts in May and goes until the end of October, otherwise most of the restaurants and activities are shut down for the off-season. Our recommendation is to go in mid-May or September/August to avoid the large tourist groups that take over during the summer!
Fun Things to Do:
-Relax on the volcanic sandy beach in Positano! Cute boutiques, the domed church, and many restaurants serving fresh seafood, homemade pastas, and delicious limoncello all surround the beach.
-Take a day trip to Capri to see the Blue Grottos. It’s super easy to take a boat from Positano, and the view is incredible! There’s nothing better than being on those bright blue waters.
-On your way back to the train or airport in Naples, stop in the town of Herculaneum to see ruins from the Mt. Vesuvius volcanic eruption. In our opinion, much more preserved than Pompeii!
General Tips about Italy :
-Learn to take the trains: You can get almost everywhere via train. They’re super easy to figure out and relatively inexpensive!
-Italians eat three-course meals typically, but don’t worry because these meals are much lighter than the American version of Italian food!
- Antipasta (appetizer)
- Primo (pasta)
- Secondo (meat or fish)
-Tipping isn’t always customary. You can tip someone if they go above and beyond what’s necessary!
Hello and Goodbye: Ciao
Thank you: Grazie
You’re welcome: Prego
Red wine/white wine: Vino Rosso/ Vino Bianco
Whether you’re going to Italy for a few days or studying abroad for 4 months (like our new intern Haley), there will never be a shortage of things to do or eat in Italy. Each city is filled with its own unique history, making the country a MUST-SEE!
With that in mind, we hope you have a great trip! Or as the Italians say, Buon Viaggio!