So most of you reading this probably have already figured out I went on a holiday to Europe last year due to my constant flashback spam #sorrynotsorry #takemeback etc etc. However I often get quite a lot of questions about the places I've travelled to and my own personal recommendations for people planning on travelling there themselves. So hence here I am, writing this blog post for you. I thought it'd be easier to split it up into sections so that I can go into more detail, alas let me dive into my trip to Italy.
My adventures in Italy started in Pisa when I was aboard my Top Deck trip (Summer Fun & Sailing - technically the 'Adriatic Adventure' section of it). We hopped off the tour bus into the sweltering heat (we'd just come from Nice, France where it was still a little chilly) and everyone was so happy to finally experience the hot European summer sun we'd travelled over here for. Pisa was quite a small town in fact, very quite besides the main tourist hot spots ie. the Leaning Tower of Pisa - which my tour guide informed me actually places #4 in the world out of the buildings on an angles. Impressive none the less, however not so much as the huge crowds of people making funny poses for photos everywhere, certainly a bit of a crack up.
After that brief visit we jumped back on the bus and headed to Florence, where we would be staying for 1 night only. The Hostel we were staying at was awesome .... Myself and a couple of friends I'd made decided to go into the main square for a bit of a wander and to try some ice cream before dinner. All I can say is thank the lord for GPS on preloaded google maps cause Florence is a literal maze. The beautiful buildings are so high and the streets are so narrow so there is no looking up to tell where you are until boom you are there at one of the biggest Cathedrals in the world. And man was it amazing, there was so much incredible detail I could've just stood and stared for years. We decided to treat ourselves to our first authentic Italian gelato and we certainly weren't disappointed. And right then was the moment when my Italian bloated-food-baby-stomach begun.
When In Rome
Our next stop was Rome - beautiful, endless, extravagant, sweltering Rome. We arrived late on the bus and had a short walking tour through the city, stopping by the some of the most iconic attractions in the world. I threw my penny in the Trevi Fountain hoping for a real life Lizzie McGuire moment.. I came close - except his name was gelato, at a shop where they served over 150 flavours of the beautiful invention (It really was love at first sight). I feel like you really need a week at least to explore Rome, and as I only went for a couple of days it's definitely on my re-visit list for the future.
The Floating City
After a week and a half spent sailing Greece, getting way to drunk in Croatia and travelling back to Italy throughout Europe, we arrived at the hostel in Venice. This was my last stop on my Top Deck tour and I must admit Venice was not at all what I expected. The entirety of Venice is not actually on a floating island, contrary to what you might think, you actually have to take a cable car/taxi thing to get over there or pay big $$$ to stay on the over crowded, extremely popular tourist destination. In true Aussie style, I must admit the bucket cocktails went down a little too easy at the hostel pool party on the first night so the morning walking tour in the near 40 degree heat was a little rough. However after a solid 4 cheese pasta for lunch, I was up and going again. It's amazing how the beautiful place came to be, all the quirky little glass bead shops and pretty canals. I took a gondola ride and it was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Once again there was just so much to explore and appreciate. It was also so extremely easy to get lost so I would definitely recommend investing in a map.
Cinque Terre - "The Five Lands"
After sadly departing from my Topdeck crew, who were to continue on to Munich, Prague, Berlin and Amsterdam (seriously an awesome tour) I caught multiple trains to the coastal town of Monterosso, one of the 5 small Cinque Terre towns. Honestly I could not recommend a more beautiful, relaxing place to stay. I stayed for a few nights in a small room with my bestie Sophie and we wished we had more time to explore. Our first full day we spent exploring, we struggled but succesfully completed the deathly 3km almost vertical hike between Monterosso and Vernazza in around 35 degree heat but the views were totally worth it.
However after that bout of exercise we decided to catch the 2 minute express train between the towns from then on. We managed to visit 4 of the 5 towns, unfortunately missing out Corniglia, and try some food in all of them (as you do in Italy). All the towns were so small and unique, the colours were just something I'd never seen before. The Cinque Terre dishes of specialty included seafood and AMAZING pesto pasta - as this is the area where pesto apparently emerged from. It was absolutely like nothing I've ever tried and I wish I could go back and grab a recipe!
The Amalfie Coast
Sophie and I then moved on to our next stop further down the coast, it took nearly a whole day and 4 trains to get there (including taking a wrong train to suburban Naples, scary) but we eventually arrived in Sorrento. This little town was completely different to what I expected, it was definitely a lot larger than any of the Cinque Terre towns and a lot more touristy. But very quickly I grew to love it, the atmosphere was just amazing. We chose to stay in Sorrento for our few days in the Amalfie coast as it was the most central place making Positano and Capri easily accessible for day trips.
Our first full day we took a bus to Positano, which was probably the most terrifying bust ride I have ever experienced due to the route literally being on a cliff face and the driver honking and speeding like crazy. When we arrived we were quickly startled by the heat and how the hell we were actually going to make it down to the beach, since it seemed all the shops and houses were literally piled onto the cliff face on top of each other. We eventually figured it out, and had a lovely stroll through the streets peeping in numerous lemon-based souvenir shops along the way. If you ever visit Positano during the full on heat of summer don't even bother trying to be cheap and lay on your towel on the rocky-beach because you will get burnt through like a fry pan, just suck it up and pay the 20 Euro for a beach bed like we ended up doing.
That night back in town in Sorrento we ended up finding a 5 Euro endless cocktail bar and soon after a random buzzing nightclub, so needless to say the next morning was slightly slow. However, I managed to get myself up and we got ourselves going to go and visit the island of Capri. What I didn't realise when we arrived in Sorrento is that it is literally on a cliff-face, and the only way to get down to the beach is by climbing down around 2000 steps. Luckily, we discovered there was a cheap elevator option and saved ourselves a small heart attack in the heat.
We bought a ticket and took a short boat ride to Capri, where we then took another cruise around the island, in particular to the Blue Water Caves which were so beautiful. Basically, you wait in a little row boat to be rowed into a small hole in a rock face where inside there is a lagoon with no light source but from the entrance, making the crystal clear water amazingly blue. Even though it was over in a minute or so, it was definitely worth the wait and is probably one of the most amazing things I have seen in my life.
Our final night in Sorrento we spent much the same as the first, drinking too much lemoncello and dancing our lives away (also doing my uni timetable slightly drunk at 12am using free wifi at a nightclub). The next day we explored the shops in Sorrento a little bit more, picking up some lovely souvenirs and leather goods before heading checking out of our room and travelling back to Naples, where we would spend the night before catching a flight to Mykonos. Naples was pretty crazy, the traffic was so busy and the streets were so dirty it was definitely not my favourite place in Italy that I visited. But then again we were only there for around 10 hours so I'm sure there'd be many more exciting things to see.
And Wa-lah, that basically concludes my little journey through Italy last year. I hope you enjoyed reading about it and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask!