Oh Italia, ti amo! I had the opportunity to experience six Italian cities while I was studying abroad and absolutely fell in love with the country! My program began in Milan and Lake Como, then moved on to Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and Rome. By the end of the trip I was feeling like a local! I’ll touch on a few of my favorite sites, cities and moments!
Florence felt like a home away from home! The people of Florence were so welcoming and kind to us, you couldn’t help but fall in love with the culture of the city. The multi-colored bridges, long streets full of various gelaterias, the sun setting over the river, the four-course meals at authentic family-owned restaurants (trattorias)… mamma mia! It was a dream! Make sure you try the stracciatella gelato… deliziosa! I could’ve stayed in Florence forever!
Here are a few of my favorite things about Florence:
- Piazzale Michelangelo: An amazing panoramic overlook of Florence! Best part? It’s free! I recommend going there to watch the sun set.
- Walking the Ponte Vecchio: Walk across this the colorful bridge and stop in adorable little shops along your way! You’ll be treated to a wonderful view of the Arno River.
- The Statue of David: You can go see the amazing original masterpiece, David, at the Galleria dell’Accademia or you can see a very close copy at Piazza della Signoria — which is a great place to walk around, shop, and enjoy a meal!
- Scuola del Cuoio: The Florence Leather Making School was a great place to stop in and visit! We had a special tour of the school and even met the leather makers! If you purchase a product from their gift shop, their master leather maker, Francesco, will monogram it for you any way you like!
- Walking along the Arno River at night: Never underestimate the power of a nighttime walk! My friends and I made some of our sweetest (and funniest) memories just walking along the river, gazing out to see Florence surrounded by twinkling lights and listening to the live music and laughter flowing in from the streets.
“Rome! By all means, Rome” – Roman Holiday
If you love history, this is the place for you! Rome totally transported me to another time. I highly recommend arranging guided tours for all the main historical stops so you can really soak it all in and learn as much as possible! PS: The tiramisu in Rome was especially superb!
Here are a few of my favorite things about Rome:
- Roman Forum: Just about a five-minute walk from the Colosseum is the original remains from the Foro Romano, dating back to 7th century BC. In the Forum, you will walk the path of the Caesars and see famous monuments and ruins such as the Arch of Titus, House of the Vestals, Temple of Caesar, and the Palatine Hill!
- The Colosseum: To see the Colosseum up close and to actually walk inside was surreal. Our amazing tour guide, Marco, brought history to life with his incredible knowledge and vivid descriptions. You could easily imagine the days of the gladiators, the crowds, and the games. It was amazing!
- Spanish Steps: Walking distance from the Trevi fountain. Here, you can reenact the famous scene from Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck!
- The Vatican: To see a city within a city was absolutely surreal! The amount of history is almost overwhelming. The original architecture is still standing, it surrounds beautiful frescos, tapestries, paintings, and statuary – truly beautiful. When you walk into the Sistine Chapel, your jaw will drop to the floor. You will look up in complete awe. Just to imagine, Michelangelo was in this very room working for four years to complete the most gorgeous and intricate ceiling in history! Breathtaking. Note: Make sure you order your tickets ahead of time and reserve a time, or you might end up waiting a few hours in line.
- Trevi Fountain: Make your wish and toss a lucky coin into this beautiful and historical fountain! You can even fill up your water bottle with special fresh drinking water. Deliziosa!
Here’s what I loved about Cinque Terre:
This is the perfect place for some R&R! Hop on a train and head to Cinque Terre for a beautiful, relaxing day on the warm and crystal clear water. You’ll just want to float in the waves with the sun on your face! The sights are breathtaking – mountains dotted with multi-colored houses surround the coastline – a perfect backdrop for your picture-taking needs! You can hop on and off the train at different beach towns along the coast, each picturesque and unforgettable. My favorites are Monterosso and Vernazza! You can also hike the entire route.
With all the breathtaking sights, rich history, delicious pizza and pasta (they do risotto RIGHT!), gelato on every block, welcoming locals, and very warm weather, I absolutely adored exploring Italy during my study abroad program! I can’t wait to go back and venture out even more. Till next time, Ciao!