In June James and I took an amazing 10 day trip to Italy! We had an absolutely incredible time traveling with another couple, and we can’t wait to go back.
Should I use some more superlatives?
But seriously, if there’s one thing I can tell you about Italy it’s that it is in no way overhyped.
Aside from the obvious things like “drink as much cheap delicious house wine as you can” and “the people watching is amazing,” here are a few of the other things we learned in Italia.
1. Only Pack Comfortable Shoes
I really just can’t stress this enough. Only pack and wear really really comfortable shoes.
There will be bloggers who will tell you to you must be as fashionable as possible to keep up with the locals, and even that some restaurants won’t let you in unless you’re wearing heels.
These bloggers, to put it delicately, are absolutely full of it.
I toted a pair of Coach wedges in my pack the entire trip. We went to cheap hole-in-the-wall restaurants, we went to restaurants that would make the nicest ones in Birmingham blush, and everything in between, and I never wore those shoes once.
You know why? Because in Italy you walk everywhere, and even if you think you’re used to walking quite a bit, you almost certainly aren’t used to walking 7-10 miles a day on cobblestone streets.
Here’s an important corollary: If you think you might be hiking, where appropriate footwear. Ignore this advice at your own peril.
Our first day in the gorgeous seaside area of Cinque Terre we went on a somewhat-impromptu hike after our boat tour ended earlier than we expected. My quite expensive, very comfortable Naot sandals will be just fine, I thought!
Hear me all you who have eyes to listen: nothing looks less fashionable than having to wear socks with your $155 sandals because of enormous blisters.
2. Absolutely do the touristy things
Vatican? Check. The Colosseum? You betcha. Il Duomo? OMG. The Pantheon? Don’t you dare miss it. La Piazza de Michelangelo? I’ll write more about that in a minute, but YES!
Every single “touristy” thing that you’re “supposed to see” in Italy is 100% worth the lines and crowds.
Just don’t be a hipster traveler. Yes, there are TONS of hidden treasures to be discovered that we adored, but if something has been drawing tourists for the better part of a millennium (or two!) there’s probably a really good reason for it.
3. Don’t be afraid
While we were preparing to travel I probably spent as much time trying to find the perfect pickpocket-proof purse and learning all about how to protect myself from everything gypsy swindlers to terrorists.
And then there was the anxiety of learning exactly how to say several common Italian phrases in the perfect accent that would make me look like less of a typical American tourist.
Newsflash (to me): You’re a 6 foot tall naturally blonde woman from Alabama. You aren’t fooling anyone.
But even if you aren’t an amazon from the deep south, chances are you are not going to blend in with the locals after only a few days in a foreign country.
Yes, it is really nice and an appreciated gesture to attempt to speak the language (it’s beautiful, and if you took high school Spanish, it’s was actually really easy to pick up), but in Western Europe nearly everyone in the service industry knows enough English to bring you delicious food and wine.
On the safety and security front. Just don’t be stupid. Wear a crossbody purse, pay attention to your surroundings, and don’t buy the dadgum roses from the dadgum gypsies. But have fun! The cops are there to help you, and the very heavily armed and highly trained military men and women are there to protect you from the bad guys.
Life is too short and the world is too big and beautiful to stay home out of fear.
4. The whole country is some kind of entertainment district
Most cities here in the states have what are called entertainment districts where you can openly drink alcohol on the street.
To the best of my knowledge the entire country of Italy is an entertainment district.
Drink the wine. Be careful. Have fun.
5. Watch sunset on La Piazza de Michelangelo
In Florence (my favorite of the cities we visited) looking over the city is the Piazza de Michelangelo, where Michelangelo’s David used to be displayed. My favorite evening of the entire trip was when we climbed up to the top with a few bottles of good wine and sat on the steps for several hours anticipating the sunset.
We made friends with a world traveler, a group of middle aged women from Brazil (Salute!), and dozens of romantic couples.
6. Eat ALL THE GELATO
In all we went to four locations: Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, and Pompeii/Mt. Vesuvius.
We can’t wait to go back!
Do you have any questions about what to see and do in Italy? Travel tips of your own? Let’s chat about it in the comments!