To my surprise, I fell in love with Italy this summer. I will admit, Italy wasn’t high on my radar as a vacation spot but I am so glad my world traveling boyfriend, Dodo, and I were able to find three weeks to explore this amazing country. Italy has something to offer everyone – outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, art aficionados, wine connoisseurs and everyone in between. When planning our vacation, we decided to include as many hikes and outdoor excursions as possible while still finding the time to see the highlights of the main cities.
Piazza del Plebiscito, Napoli
I’m including our basic itinerary below, with links to each place we visited in case you want to skip to a specific section to read about our adventures in that location only; otherwise scroll past the itinerary to read about the three weeks we spent immersing ourselves in Italy. We probably wouldn’t have been able to see as much as we did if we hadn’t rented a car on Day 7 in Naples and dropped it off in Rome the day before our flight back home. While driving was stressful and at times a tad scary, I would highly recommend renting a vehicle so you can cover more ground and don’t have to depend on public transportation, particularly in areas like the Dolomites & Tuscany. My second recommendation is for anyone who is lactose intolerant like we both are. Buy the biggest bottle of Lactaid pills you can find and take them with you; those little pills are miracle workers!
Day 1: Rome
Our flight got delayed 25 hours so we lost the one full day in Rome we had to sightsee. Sitting on the runway for several hours was worth it though because Delta gave us a full refund for the trip!
Day 3: Naples – Mt. Vesuvius hike, stayed with Dodo’s brother & sister-in-law in downtown Naples for 5 nights
Day 4: Naples – Amalfi Coast – Sentiero degli Dei hike
Day 5: Naples – Pompeii
Day 6: Naples – exploring Naples
Day 7: Naples to Lazio – Mount Redentore Trail/Path of the Redeemer, Airbnb in Lazio
Day 8: Lazio to Tuscany – Saturnia Spring,Airbnb in San Chimento (Tuscany) for 3 nights
Day 9: Tuscany – Siena
Day 10: Tuscany – Il Fiume Elsa & San Gimignano
Day 11: Tuscany to Levanto via Pisa, Pian di Picche campsite in Levanto for 2 nights
Day 12: Cinque Terra – Sentiero Azurro hike
Day 13: Levanto to Verona, Airbnb in Verona
Day 14: Verona to Colfosco & Corvara (Dolomites), Hotel Christian for 2 nights
Day 15: Corvara (Dolomites) – Via Ferrata Les Cordes climb
Day 16: Coravara to Cortina (Dolomites) – Via Ferrata Tridentina climb, Hotel Nord
Day 17: Dolomites to Venice, Airbnb outside of Venice
Day 18: Venice to Florence – Uffuzi Museum, Casale le Pergole Agriturismo (Tuscany) for 2 nights
Day 19: Tuscany – town of Sieci
Day 20: Florence to Orvieto – Gallery Accademia, Orvieto, Airbnb in Ciconia
Day 21: Rome, Holiday Inn Aurelia
Day 22: Home to Tampa & my furbabies
Il Fiume Elsa in Tuscany
After a long night and most of a day traveling, we arrived in Rome and checked in to our hotel around 5pm. I had my first of many glasses of wine in Italy while we waited at the hotel bar for the 8pm shuttle to transport us to the metro station that would take us to downtown Rome to begin exploring. We had quite a whirlwind evening taking in as much as we could given that we had lost our one full day to sightsee in Italy’s historic capital.
At the bottom of Scalina Spagna
Our first stop (and ironically what would end up being our very last stop before flying home) was the Spanish Steps or Scalina Spagna; we had no idea just how many more steps we would be in for throughout the next 3 weeks! I also hadn’t realized how insanely crowded and hot it would be during our trip. The steps were packed with people but we managed to work our way to the second landing, taking photos and enjoying the music by the band playing at the bottom. After descending, we walked to the breathtaking Trevi Fountain, one of the oldest water sources in Rome. Once there we were happily suckered into buying two polaroid photographs of us taken by a street photographer. Dodo and I also each took a turn throwing a coin over our shoulders into the fountain while making a wish. And to ensure a return trip to Rome per the fountain’s legend!
Making a wish!
Our next stop was for food! I was starving by this time so we wandered down a side street and found a restaurant for our first Italian dinner. We were seated right behind the pasta maker who was pounding and rolling out pasta in the window while people on the street watched. It’s true. Spaghetti really is better in Rome! I had a bare bones plate of it with tomato sauce and fresh basil and it was the most heavenly pasta dish I’ve ever eaten. I don’t even like spaghetti! Unless in Italy I learned. I also learned Italians don’t like making substitutions to menu items so don’t ask.
The first of many pasta dinners in Italy!
la Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi
Upon finishing our late dinner we hurried to visit the Pantheon and then Piazza Navona where the famous la Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is located. We couldn’t go into the Pantheon but admired its impressive design, it continues to be the world’s largest unsupported concrete dome, and seemingly immaculate condition for a building that has been standing for almost 2,000 years! We took quite a few photos there and at the fountain which is another important source of water in Rome. Each of the four sculpted figures represents a major river: the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges, and the Plate.
By now it was almost 1am and we had long missed the last shuttle from the end of the metro line back to our hotel. But we started winding our way back towards the metro stop that would get us a bit closer to Aurelia. Of course we walked by a gelato shop with a sign that said over 150 flavors, including dairy free options, so we had to stop for our first gelato in Italy. To be honest, I ate so much gelato in Italy, I can’t remember what flavors I got that first night but I do remember it was delicious, hence the beginning of my gelato addiction.
Summer crowds at the beautiful Trevi fountain.
We successfully navigated the metro to the end of the line and realized that everyone exiting at our station was being picked up by friends, family, the dog, who knows! We wandered up and down the trash lined street for about 30 minutes desperately waving down the 2 taxis that drove by to no avail. Dodo called the Holiday Inn and asked the manager if they could call us a taxi and was promptly asked “Are you crazy. . . what are you doing out so late? You should have been back by now!” And no, they could not call us a cab. As I envisioned a night sleeping in a putrid blue dumpster, what must have been the last cab in all of Rome drove by and thankfully picked us up. Needless to say, we passed out until the next morning when Dodo’s brother was knocking on our hotel door at 10am to take us to our next stop, Napoli.