Updated: Feb 1
Italy is always on the top of people's bucket lists, and I definitely understand why! If you're like me, you've probably spent what feels like a lifetime just looking at pictures and dreaming of seeing those beautiful images in real life.
My first visit featured five beautiful cities in the country's north west, let me tell you a bit more about each of them.
First stop, Florence
Florence is pure architecture, Renaissance art, and natural beauty. I walked this city from the early hours until late evening. There’s far too much to see and to do in two days but for sure this is somewhere I will revisit.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is stunning, it’s very easy to spend an hour in there looking at the Gothic style and design. Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone bridge lined with jewelry shops is a must see and so picturesque, especially if you like boutique shopping. My list goes on and on, Florence is a magical place... Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, Piazza della Signoria, The Baptistery of St. John, and my personal favourite, Piazzale Michelangelo.
Just a short stroll from downtown, the view from the Piazzale Michelangelo over Florence and the Arnop River is magnificent. After a long day of wandering the city I walked to the hilltop and watched the sun set, it was packed with locals, a handful of tourists, and a set of musicians, what a way to set the ambience! I found a space on the wall to sit and just sat quietly taking in the views.
Next stop, Pisa
It’s a very interesting place but can quickly fill with tourists, so I recommend going during the week. Most known for its leaning tower and cathedral, it sure is a fun place to take a quirky photo and wander around the cathedral square.
It's good to visit because it's a popular spot and because of the history, but half a day is more than enough. There's a lot more of Italy to see in other towns.
Sienna, just thinking about it makes me want to go back!
Sienna is in the Tuscany region, it’s lush and full of history. I headed straight to Piazza del Campo, which is the biggest medieval square in the world. I suggest visitors take the time to stroll around and admire the old buildings which surround the square. You must try the Tuscan pine nuts from the market!
I finished my stay in Sienna with a climb of the 400 Steps at the Torre Del Mangia, to witness the breathtaking views. You can see all of Sienna from up there. Can you tell that I love vistas?
I climbed the Torre early in the morning, so early there were few tourists and only a handful of stalls open for business. As I entered, I noticed a roosting flock of pigeons in the beams overhead but I wasn't quick enough to move through and one of them pooped in my hair! Despite my appearance, one of the kind stall owners opened his doors early to allow me use of the bathroom before I headed up to the wonderful view.
Despite that dirty pigeon, I loved Sienna!
I still talk about Orvieto at least once a month
One of my favorites, Orvieto. I drive my husband crazy because I mention this cliff side town of Umbria every time he mentions Italy! For me it didn’t get more Italian than this, with its cobbled streets and little brick homes. I spent a couple of hours exploring the town and found a local restaurant where I tried their homemade pastas and pizzas, delicious would be an understatement.
Orvieto is well known for it’s cathedral, which is full of stained glass, mosaics, and sculptures. It also sits atop an underground world of medieval caves, wells, and tunnels. If you haven't arranged it in advance, they have many a guided tours for you to see how local people lived in ancient times.
I loved this place so much it made the shortlist for my wedding! We settled on St Lucia, but I still dream of castles and white dresses!
The ancient centre of the world
Only 90 minutes away from Orvieto, not the other way around! There are many options for hotels within walking distance of the famous sights. I visited the Colosseum, which to say the least, is capital "I" - Impressive; Plan for security queues when visiting The Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica, you can also still toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain for good luck. Rome truly is bustling and full of life
Rome will also take you back in time, for all you Audrey Hepburn fans, I know you know what I’m talking about!
Still a favourite
Italy is a place you could return to a thousand times over and still want to go back. Of all the places I've visited in Europe and beyond, it remains a favourite. During my next visit, I'll be heading to Venice and hope to cruise down the grand canal in a gondola with my husband, Shy.
Where have you been in Italy and what was your favourite experience there?
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Looking forward to hearing about your travel plans and sharing some of ours. Until then, Holly, your Chief Fun Officer - next stop, Greece 2019