Things to do:
- Il Duomo di Firenze: An iconic Florence cathedral, the interior is covered in incredible art and topped by a dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. While you're there, be sure to climb to the top of the cupola (dome) for a beautiful view of the city!
- Giotto's Campanile: Right next to the Duomo, this is a free-standing campanile covered in artwork telling the story of the Redemption of Mankind. You can also climb the steps to the top for another panoramic city view!
- Ponte Vecchio: Medieval bridge across the Arno River where you can find incredible shops folded out onto the sides of the stone street.
- Uffizi Gallery: One of the most famous art museums in the world, the collection was primarily donated by the Medici family. Exhibits include works by Leonardo di Vinci, Raffael, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Giotto, Cimabue, and many more.
- The David: This iconic sculpture by Michelangelo can be found just across a small plaza from the Uffizi Gallery.
- Medici Chapels: Two chapels by the Basilica of San Lorenzo where the Medici family prayed. They were the patrons of many of the most famous artists of the Renaissance, including Michelangelo, who completed most of the artwork that is still there today.
- Basilica de San Lorenzo: One of the largest churches in Florence and the burial place of many members of the Medici family. Much of the artwork and sculptures inside were completed by Donatello, Brunelleschi, and Michelangelo.
- Florence is well known for its cattle. This is the best place in the world to buy leather and eat beef, and I recommend you do a lot of both!
Things to do:
- Duomo di Milano: Absolutely gorgeous cathedral in Milan. It is right in the heart of the city, so you can center your day around it.
- Mudec Museum: This museum features a massive Klimt exhibit (one of my absolute favorite artists), so I was in heaven! It's walking distance from the Duomo, and I highly recommend it.
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: Awesome place to (window) shop. It's the world's oldest -- and arguably most beautiful -- shopping mall! Also walking distance from the first two attractions.
Where I stayed:
- Piero Rotta: Would not recommend. While it was cheap, the facilities left a lot to be desired and it was so far from the central downtown area that we had to take two metros to get there.
Things to do:
- Pantheon: Built nearly 2,000 years ago, this is one of the most iconic buildings in Rome and is the final resting place of many Renaissance men, including Raphael.
- Colosseum: AKA the Flavian Amphitheatre. This is the largest amphitheater ever built and it is situated right in the heart of Rome. This was a central feature of ancient Roman life where people could come together for gladiator conquests, public speeches, executions, and plays. There is so much history, so I would recommend getting a tour.
- Trevi Fountain: A beautiful Roman monument. Legend has it if you throw a coin in over your shoulder your wildest wishes will come true!
- Vatican: The capital of the Roman Catholic Church and home to some of the most beautiful artwork in the world, including Michael Angelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica.
- Crypts under the Vatican: This was one of the coolest things I did in Rome. You have to book ahead of time, but it allows you to go underneath the Vatican to see the remains of all the churches built there before it, the ruins of Roman buildings in the area, and St. Peter's bones. It was incredibly powerful.
- Roman Forum: Excavated remains of a Roman city, including temples, squares, and government buildings dating back 2,000 years.
- Spanish Steps: Another iconic Roman monument, these steps take you between Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Trinità dei Monti.
Foods to Try:
Do I even need to say it? EAT EVERYTHING!!!
Pizza, pasta, and risotto are delicious options everywhere.
When along the coast, you should try the fresh fish meals. I especially like fried octopus or eel.
Florence is famous for its cattle. If you're a beef eater, this is the place to indulge!
The herbs, fruits, and vegetables are incredibly fresh. Stop at local markets or street vendors for the best and freshest pieces.
Ge-La-To. Gelato every day. Let me say it again. Gelato every single day. Your belly will thank you!!
I felt very safe in Italy, though normal precautions apply. Keep your wits about you, watch out for pick pockets, and ask your hotel/hostel/Airbnb host which areas to avoid before you start wandering around at night!
Transportation in Italy:
All of Italy's big cities have great, and inexpensive metro systems. Cities large and small have expansive bus systems, though a lot run limited routes on Sundays, holidays, and late night. Make sure to check your route before you go!
Taking a train or a plane are often the best way to get from city to city, or to another neighboring European country. Both are fast, relatively inexpensive, and easy.
To take a train: I recommend getting an unlimited Eurail Pass. I bought one and able to take as many trips, to as many countries as I liked for one flat rate. I bought the one month pass, but you can buy them for almost any length of time and travel to cities throughout Belgium, or throughout the whole region.
To take a plane: There are lots of discount flight websites, but I particularly like Ryanair, Rome2Rio, and Google Flights.