Written by: Nadia
During spring 2017, we went on a road trip across Italy, from Napoli to Venice. We chose to visit Napoli, Pompeii, Capri, Florence, Pisa, Rome and Venice. Do you want to know the best of every city and know where we stayed, what was our itinerary and get useful information and tips about this amazing country? Keep on reading!
As it is a quite long post, here’s what you’ll find: it’s a travel diary about our itinerary around Italy, the cities we’ve been in and what we’ve seen, but it also includes useful information like tips, personal experience, prices… And historical facts, because we think many travel blogs forget to include historical information about places and buildings and you can’t miss all those data. We want to give you a wide perspective and a real experience. There’s also pics taken by us!
First, I’ll tell you how we’ve planned the trip. We chose Italy because it’s the perfect country to go on a road trip: There are many amazing cities and they are not far away from each other. We chose to go in spring because it’s not high season and the weather is warm but not as hell. Anyway, it was very hot every day.
After choosing our destination and the perfect season, we only had to set the itinerary and rent a car. We chose to start in Napoli and end in Venice, because flights were very cheap and because we only had 10 days, so we could only cover part of the country. So our route was Napoli, Pompeii, Capri, Rome, Pisa, Florence and Venice.
We compared a few rent-a-car companies and we decided to rent with AVIS because it had very good reviews in Italy. We only rented it for part of our trip, because the car was unnecessary for part Napoli-Capri-Napoli.
We already had everything, we only had to wait for the day to arrive. Let’s see divide the trip city by city:
When we arrived in Napoli we could see the Italian spring was almost summer. It was about 30 degrees and very sunny. From the airport, we took a bus to Piazza Garibaldi, the main square, and we found out Napoli was very unattractive, it was dirty and ugly. The subway was very old, but in a bad sense.
We arrived to our neighborhood and although it was a bit dirty, it was acceptable. At least, our apartment was clean. That night, we went out to have dinner and we found out why Napoli deserves a visit: PIZZA. Best. Pizza. Ever. If you try pizza at Napoli, you’ll understand.
The next morning, we went to Pompeii by train from Piazza Garibaldi. It was very easy to get there and it was not a very long journey, about one hour and a half.
You can visit Pompeii by yourself (after purchasing a ticket, of course), or you can join a group for a guided tour. The guided tour lasts about two and a half hours, so I guess you can see the most important things in just a couple of hours, but we decided to visit the ruins by ourselves and it took us six hours! We’ve seen every stone of it.
What can you expect about Pompeii? It was one of the biggest settlements of the Roman Empire, so it’s quite wide. The ruins are very well preserved and there are many complete statues and columns.
You’ll be amazed by the Forum, that worked as a main square during the Roman Empire. You can’t miss the Great Theater, it’s impressive. There’s also a small version of it very close by, but the Great one is just amazing.
But, of course, the most amazing thing about Pompeii is the petrified corpses of a group of people that were trying to escape the city when the volcano exploded. I will never ever forget that image. It was not scary or nasty, it was just shocking. Here you can see a pic of it.
You can’t miss:
- Temples: Jupiter, Venus, Apollo, Vespasiano, Isis…
- Mistery Villa: Amazing private roman manson.
- Termas: Foro, Estabianas and Centrals.
Attention: The floor of Pompeii is irregular and made out of stones, it’s not accessible to wheelchairs or baby trolleys.
The entrance is about 15 € and there’s also a museum nearby but we had no time left…
After walking about six hours around Pompeii, we went back to Napoli and had another amazing pizza.
Overall: Napoli is not our cup of tea. It’s dirty, noisy and ugly. Although it deserves a visit because of its pizzas and it’s a good base to move around the Vesuvius and Pompeii.
The next morning, we took the ferry from Napoli to Capri at 8:00. It was sunny so we sat on the upper deck so we could see the view. During the trip, the ferry passes by the Vesuvius and it’s amazing.
The first thing you notice about Capri is its sheer nature and its white houses. It seems a movie set. The blossom, the sun, the sea, the houses… It smelled like flowers and lemon. Did you know Capri’s lemons are famous all over the world?
The ferry left us at Marina Grande, the main town. As I told you, the island is sheer and Marina Grande is divided in three levels:
- Sea: The lowest part. You can find the port, some shops and restaurants, a small beach and the bay. It’s beautiful but very quiet.
- Piazzeta: The middle part. This is where you want to be. The essence of Capri is here, restaurants, bars, shops, people, music…
- Villas: The upper part. The luxury villas are located there and it’s calm and the views are amazing.
Again, this is the division for Marina Grande, the whole island is bigger and I’ll tell you more places around later.
Ok, so we arrived at the port and we took the funicular to Piazzeta. We could also walk up but it was a long hike with the luggage. We arrived at Piazzeta and found out what I told you about the essence of Capri. It was so beautiful.
But we were staying at a luxury villa so we had to keep going up. From that point, there was no funicular at all and cars can ride there because streets are too narrow. There are some trolleys for disabled people, though. So we had to walk up!
It was too hot and we were lucky our luggage was quite light. We finally made it to our villa and we were amazed. It was Casa dei Merli and it was huge. The main house was for the hosts and then there were two houses for the guests. The garden was huge, there even was a big roman theatre! You can find it on Airbnb. If you book through this link, you get a discount of 20€!
The hosts were very nice and they had a dog called Wendy who was so sweet and charming. We loved our stay there and views were amazing. They were building a swimming pool in the garden, so I guess it should be ready by now.
After relaxing a bit, we started to plan our three days in Capri. The island is not too big, it has a lot to offer and you can get everywhere walking. Let me show you what we did those days:
It’s a Mother Nature’s masterpiece. It’s a cave in the cliff that allows the sun in so the water shines in turquoise neon. It’s so beautiful… To get there, you must book a tour with an agency. You can do it anytime at the port. They will take you there by boat and then, a smaller boat will pick you up and take you into the cave. You’ll see something amazing there. Then, the small boat will take you back to your home boat and you’ll be taken to the port again.
It’s the younger brother of Marina Grande. You can get there easily by walking.
Beautiful gardens with a view. Entrance costs 1€.
Impressive natural arch by the sea. It was formed by the wind and sea waves and it’s quite big.
Villa Jovis and Villa Lysis:
Villa Jovis is the old residence of Tiberio, he was a bit paranoid and believing somebody wanted him dead, he hide in this villa of Capri. Villa Lysis is more recent, it’s a 1900’s villa from an artist.
The highest level of the whole island. We couldn’t reach it (or were too lazy and had little time).
Just walk around and enjoy the views and the landscape!
Overall: Those three days seemed three hours. Capri will stay forever in our hearts and we can’t wait to go back. We had an amazing time there and it worth’s it. Make sure you don’t miss Capri in your itinerary!
After taking the ferry Capri-Napoli, we took our rental car in Napoli and we headed North to Rome. Italian highways are in good conditions, so it was an easy trip. It lasted around two and a half hours.
When we got to Rome, our host was waiting for us to help us find a parking. We were lucky because during the weekend, parkings were free.
After resting a bit and have something to eat, we went out for a walk around town: Piazza Spagna, the crowded Fontana di Trevi, the Panteon, Sant’Angelo Bridge, Piazza Navona… And we also visited the Michelangelo ‘s Moses, one of the most remarkable sculptures of this artist.
It was a hot and busy day, we were exhausted so we went to bed early. The next day was going to be even busier!
We woke up early and took the subway to the Coliseum. The queue was already long. It took us around two hours queuing ! You can get tickets online, but it cost 4,5€ extra. We didn’t think it would be necessary, but if we had known there would be so much queue, we would have bought them online!
When we finally got in, we understood the queue was worth it. I had been in Rome several times and I had already seen the Coliseum from the inside, but it’s just so spectacular that every time I go in, it amazes me just like the first time.
The Coliseum is named after a big statue that was close to it. Nowadays, that statue is lost, but never forgot. The Coliseum is a World Heritage site.
I don’t think explaining its main activities would be necessary, because we all know about the gladiators’ fights, but let me tell you something funny: there was also naval battles inside of it! They flooded it and had ships fighting! That should tell you something about its size and dimensions.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, during the Middle Age, it served as a shelter, factory, quarry, the headquarter of an religious order and a Christian sanctuary. Luckily, it was well preserved.
After visiting the Coliseum, which took us about two hours, we went to have something to eat and then, we visited the Palatino and the Roman Forum. They are both next to the Coliseum. The ticket is the same.
When you visit the Palatino and the Roman Forum, your mind starts to reconstruct the ruins and the buildings and suddenly, you are surrounded by the bright Rome of the Roman Empire, from 2000 years ago. The ruins are in great conditions. It’s a must if you visit Rome.
After travelling back to the Roman Empire and walking all day long, we had a gelato by the Fontana di Trevi. There are amazing ice cream shops around and you just can’t help it. We had something to eat too and then, we went home.
The next day, we woke up early again, we had breakfast and headed to the Vatican Museum. It was the first Sunday of the month, so it was free! That was cool, but the kilometric queue was not so cool… It was about three kilometers long and took us about three hours to get in. It was tiring and boring…
Once we were inside the museum, the situation didn’t improve. The museum is like Ikea, you must follow just one itinerary, so it was crowded and you couldn’t move faster or even stop for a pic because the crowd drag you.
We couldn’t enjoy much, but luckily, the entrance to the Sistine Chapel was controlled by guards, so it was not crowded and we could enjoy it for a while. The bad thing is that those guards are annoying, they keep shouting “Silence! No photo” all the time. It’s funny, they ask for silence by SHOUTING.
Anyway, if you turn off the flash of your camera (and the sound, so the guards don’t notice it) you should be able to take some pics. Just don’t do it too obvious or the guards will shout to you…
After our visit, we had something to eat and rest our feet and then went to Piazza San Pietro to see the Basilica and the square, but as it was the first Sunday of the month, the Pope was celebrating a ceremony and all the entrances were closed. The guards told us it would finish soon, so we waited like 15 minutes. We were able to see the Pope and the blessing so I guess we are now… blessed?
Anyway, after those 15 minutes, the crowd disappeared and we were able to get in. As we were the only ones around and the first to get to the access of the Basilica, there was no queue! Normally, there’s a long, long queue too, so we were lucky (or blessed!).
Let me give you some advice so you are not denied to enter the Basilica, especially for women. We must dress appropriately, don’t show your knees or shoulders. It’s difficult in summer, I know… I wore sport pants that covered my knees and a regular T-shirt. There’s always people selling scarves around in case people are not dressed appropriately.
Inside the Basilica, you can see the tombs of many Popes and their mummified bodies (creepy). The most impressive one is Pope John Paul II’s body. But the thing you can’t miss is the Michelangelo’s Pietà. The most beautiful sculpture I’ve ever seen.
After our visit, we went back to the apartment to rest a bit and get ready because we were meeting some friends for dinner! The next day we were going to Florence!
Overall: The Eternal City is a must. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been there, you just want to come back again. It’s pure History, on every corner, on every building. You must visit Rome at least once in your life!
Driving across the Tuscany is an amazing experience. All those vineyards, the sun, the landscape, the olive trees… It was just like a movie. And the accommodation we chose for those days was spectacular. We chose Fattoria Il Milione, a ranch 5 minutes away from Florence with country houses, swimming pools and vineyards and olive trees. They make their own wine and olive oil! Our country house was so beautiful. You can find it on Airbnb. If you book through this link, you get a discount of 20€!
We go there before lunch, so we made us some sandwiches and got in the car to visit Pisa and its famous Leaning Tower. It’s about one hour away from Florence, so it was perfect to spend the day there and come back. We parked close to the Tower and had lunch on its gardens. Of course, this pic was a must:
You aren’t allowed to actually step on the grass but it was sunny and the police wasn’t around, so everybody was picnicking there and trying to take the perfect snap and the perfect perspective.
You can enter the tower and climb up, but we didn’t because the best view is from the outside. We walked around and went back to the car. We got back to our country house at around 20:00 and since it was still sunny, we enjoyed the swimming pool. Then, we had dinner and went to sleep.
The next morning we went to visit Florence, one of the most beautiful cities of Italy. Its architecture, its art… Everything is Renaissance and very different from Rome. It’s a travel back to the Renaissance. But, of course, you must queue.
Tip: you must dress appropriate to enter the religious buildings, just like in the Vatican.
The first thing we visited, of course, was the Duomo: the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, built by Brunelleschi during the XIV century. And, of course, the buildings around it. The most amazing thing about the cathedral is the great dome. You can climb up the 300 stairs to get a great view of the city.
Next to it, on an independent building, you can find the bell tower. It’s very common that Renaissance churches have an independent bell tower. You can find that in Pisa too. After visiting the bell tower, we went to have lunch. We had some sandwiches we brought with us.
Another must in the Duomo is the Baptisterio, a place where baptisms were celebrated. The well known Doors of the Paradise were located there, but now you can only see a copy. The real ones are in Opera Museum, a few meters away. You should visit the museum, is amazing.
That was the end of the day for us, we went back home to have diner and sleep! We still had many things to visit in Florence the next day.
We woke up early in the morning and went to queue again to visit the Uffizi Gallery. It’s one of the most famous museums in Florence and you can find the Médici heritage there. There is where you should go if you want to visit the The Birth of Venus by Botticelli.
Then, we queue again to visit the Accademia Gallery. Ok, this IS a MUST. It’s home of the David, by Michelangelo. It’s a huge sculpture and I think the most famous one of all. You can’t describe by words, so please, please, go to see it.
Another great thing to do in Florence is visiting its bridges. The most important one is Ponte Vecchio. And don’t miss some of the best squares, like Piazza della Repubblica. There are many things to see in Florence, it’s pure art. You’ll need a whole week there to visit everything, but if you just want the essentials, two or three days should be enough.
Overall: Florence is one of our favorite cities of Italy. If Rome is History, Florence is Art. You will never get tired of it.
We started our trip to Venice early. When we arrived, we left the rental car at the office because we weren’t going to need it anymore, Then, we took the vaporetto (the water taxi) to the Marina Santelena. We were staying in a sailboat!
Staying in a sailboat is very special but you need to take into account a few things: if you get sick onboard, this is not the best place to stay. If it’s a small boat, you´ll need to use the Marina toilets as the boat will not have those facilities. By night, you’ll hear the sound of boats against each others.
We had already stayed in sailboats before so we knew those things wouldn’t affect us. The great things about staying in a boat are waking up by the sound of the sea, meeting families across the world at the Marina, eating sushi and champagne on the front deck by sunset… We love it!
So we arrived to the Marina, we had something to eat (the sailboat had a small kitchen) and went to walk the streets of Venice. The walk from our boat to the city center (Piazza San Marco) was nice and relaxing, by the sea and full of shops and restaurant. It took us about 20 minutes.
We sat to have a gelato at Piazza San Marco enjoying the sun, the live music and the views. That afternoon we just wanted to relax and enjoy the city so after that, we just walked around Venice streets and took pics of its canals. In this case, we didn’t visit the interior of the buildings at Piazza San Marco because there was no interest for us to do so.
After a very bucolic afternoon, we headed back to our boat, we had diner on the front deck and sleep under the stars.
The next morning we took the vaporetto to Burano (not Murano). It’s a small island next to Venice famous for its colored houses. It’s like a fairytale! In case you don’t know it, Venice is quite dirty and buildings are old and not very well preserved. But Burano is clean, colorful and it also has canals! So it’s a must.
After spending the morning and part of the afternoon there, we went back to Venice and we visited the Gran Canal and its bridges. The most famous one is Rialto Bridge. Then, we went back to San Marco to enjoy a bit more of its charm and went back to our boat. That night we had to catch our flight back to Spain and we had to go to bed very early.
Overall: Venice is not our favorite city of Italy, but it is worth a visit. Its canals, its special touch… And of course, we are dying to visit it during Carnival! If you go to Venice, don’t miss Burano! We had a horrible experience on our way from the boat to the airport, but we’ll tell you about it on a recap post about weir experiences we had on our trips!
The thing is that we made it to the airport (I still don’t know how) and a few hours later, we were home. Our adventure was over!
In general, Italy is a country full of interesting cities and activities, it is pure Art, pure History… It still keeps many secrets and we want to discover them all! We still need to visit Milan, Verona and the south of the country! We will definitely go back, for sure!
Ti amiamo, bella Italia!