After my first visit to Italy, I came away with a greater appreciation and love for the people, history, art and the cuisine of this country. I knew that I would return and the next trip would not be a tour package but an itinerary that I created. Here are some of my tips for building your own tour to Italy.
Florence is well known for its art and architecture that was created during the Renaissance. Staying close to the city center, within walking distance of the statue of David, the Duomo, and the Uffizi Gallery was key for me. I found the wonderful, Hotel Loggiato del Serviti, which is across the plaza from one of the city’s most beautiful and classical buildings, the Spedale degli Innocenti, by Brunelleschi. Immerse yourself; find a locally run hotel to stay at.
In Rome, after a day of walking the Vatican, which included hiking up the winding ramps to the top of Castel Sant’ Angelo, the fortress of the Popes in medieval times, and crossing the Angel Bridge, I was ready for the evening’s dinner. If you are like me, and love “la dolce vita,” the sweet life, then the food you eat and the wine you drink are important. Trattorias, family owned dining establishments, are one of the best ways to sample Italian cuisine. Eating at a trattoria will reward you with food prepared from fresh, seasonal ingredients and wine produced from neighboring vineyards.
Tour Your Way
Get off the bus and rent a car instead. That’s what I did while in Florence. I rented a fast, four-speed, standard shift, Alfa Romeo, which I drove from Firenze to Pisa with a side trip up into the hills of Tuscany. Visiting Pisa gave me the opportunity not only to see the famous tower but to also visit Pisa’s grand cathedral, baptistery and hidden jewel, the Camposanto, or “Holy Field” built in 1278 with soil brought back from the Holy Lands. It is next to the cathedral and contains burials in its walls and floors, with statues and busts of the deceased.
Best Time to Visit
For me, avoiding the busy and hotter summer months and visiting any other time works. My last trip was in February and the weather was quite seasonable in the mid forties to lower fifties. Of course, for the Italians, that’s winter weather but for a North American, it’s spring!