I have a sneaking suspicion that people don’t really dislike the idea of a planned out trip, they just hate the work that comes with the ‘planning’ part of it. Many hard core travelers rave about how they just ‘go with the flow’ without plans and see where that takes them. Some of them even shun the idea of planning as ‘not real traveling,’ evident in this forum discussion. I like that idea too, but I like to have a back up plan as the pieces don’t always fall into place. I have seen countless of these travelers searching for things to do in the hostel they are staying in during the trip! To me, this is a complete waste of time which could be spent actually enjoying a new place. Trust me, you don’t want to be that guy who spends his day staring at a map and trying to figure it out the day of.
Recently, I was looking at my old pictures and found one of a map of Italy. It was a Google map which I made during the brainstorming part of my summer of 2012 trip to the land of Ancient Rome. When I was about to hit delete, I thought, “this is the kind of thing I wish I could find online to give me an idea of potential travel routes.” Then, it hit me, why not post my Italy itinerary of what I did on that trip, in the hopes that someone will find it useful, or entertaining at the very least.
Here is my Italy itinerary, with a map of my route along with a short run through of what happened.
[Note: Because I was traveling with my mother and brother, the itinerary was a lot more rigid than I prefer. Nonetheless, it went great!]
The Actual Route I Took:
View larger map
* Fly to Bologna, Italy for an overnight layover – This went as planned, with no time to do anything but sleep and get on the early flight to Palermo.
* Fly to Palermo, Italy, meet my mom and brother, and take a train to Agrigento – I don’t know why I thought there was a train directly from the airport to Agrigento, but there wasn’t. I had to take a bus to Palermo, then a train to Agrigento. I met my family without a problem, arrived in Agrigento, and had some of the best pizza of the trip.
* Valle Dei Templi – I saw the UNESCO World Heritage Site the Valley of the Temples at night (as they were being promoted for night viewings). They were incredible, 3000 year old Greek (pre-Roman) monuments to Zeus, Hera, and Hercules which completely lived up to all of the expectations that this list gave me by listing it as #1. Unfortunately, not on the brochure was the complete lack of transportation after a certain hour. We were almost stranded, but managed to get a cab after a long delay.
* Valle Dei Templi pt.2 – Revisited the site to finish seeing the temples, and to get some good daytime pictures. I bought some citron jam here which I still have in my fridge. Does jam go bad? Given that I am eating it now, I might be sick tomorrow.
* Head to Naples – Took a 10 hour train from 7am-5pm. After about three hours, the train stopped, went into what looked like a cave, when started moving up and down. The best way to describe it was, confusing, as I had no idea what was going on. The train had actually loaded on to a ferry to connect with the mainland. I didn’t know trains fit on boats…cool!
* Explore Naples – Had one of the best meals of the entire trip, a three course fettuccine alfredo meal with one of the kindest Italians of the entire trip. He was fluent in Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, and a couple more languages. Makes me wish I studied Korean a bit more seriously these days.
* Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Mt. Vesuvius – Despite sounding impossible, we managed to do both ruins and climb to the crater of Mt. Vesuvius on the same day. This bought us an extra day to explore Naples the next day. It also counted as my second UNESCO site of the trip (Pompeii and Herculaneum). Given that Vesuvius is still technically an active volcano, this was kind of scary, but cool.
* Open day to explore Naples – We did one of those bus tours of Naples, which only made it look run down and dirty. Maybe I would have appreciated it more if I had done a walking tour, but for me, it was overrated at best. That one view you see in all postcards was nice though. Nevertheless, UNESCO site #3, check!
* Head to Rome in the evening – Arrived without a problem, checked in and hit the hay. Maybe we went out to eat…I don’t remember.
* Vatican City and Museums – Despite itching to see the Colosseum, I decided to see the Vatican Museums on a day they are less crowded. Good call I think, but still very busy. This was UNESCO Site #4 of the trip.
* Pantheon and Trevi Fountain – While I have seen replicas in Seoul and Las Vegas, it was nice to see the real fountain at last. Unfortunately, 10,000 other people were glad to see it at the same time too! Needless to say, it one could barely more in front of Trevi. The Pantheon was closed, but was a beautiful building from the outside, with those traditional Roman columns you associate Rome with. I returned a few days later and saw the inside of the Pantheon.
* Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palantino Hill – We were lucky enough to book a tour of the upper tiers, and the dungeons of the Colosseum in advance as the wait that day was over three hours just to get inside (and the extras were sold out). We waited about 10 minutes before our small group tour started. I will give a more detailed description later, but this was all just unbelievable. This was not only UNESCO Site #5, but the Colosseum is also one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. This was the third one I’ve visited. Here is another blogger’s recent take on his dungeon tour.
* Borghese Galleria (morning) – Despite the Uffizi in Florence being more famous, this was my favorite art gallery in all of Italy.
* Open Day – I left the rest of this as an open day where I can just do whatever I wanted. I ended up just walking around, shopping for my girlfriend Sidney, and enjoying the amazing plaza squares that seem to be everywhere. I also returned to the Vatican to walk around some more. It was good to have this buffer break mid-trip, considering how many non-stop activities we had done so far.
* Head to Florence, Open Day to Explore – Monday’s are notorious for being the day where every museum of note is closed in Italy. This is the perfect day to walk around and just explore the marketplaces. Florence is like one giant outdoor museum, as every street looks like a historical journey back in time. I clearly remember that it hit 40 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit), so I am surprised none of us were burned too bad. We used the excuse to eat a lot of gelato. I’ll write a more detailed recount of Florence later, as it was UNESCO Site #6.
* Uffizi Galleria – The Uffizi is probably second in European art only to the Louvre in France (and even that is arguable). It contains some of the best work of the Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli.
*Uffizi Academia – A separate museum, this is the one that houses the famous Michelangelo’s David, along with many other sculptures by the master sculptor.
* Round trip to Pisa – I took my friend Maggie’s advice and didn’t stay the night in Pisa. I opted for a day trip from Florence. UNESCO Site #7 of the trip.
Open Day – We spent this open day looking around the Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral area, and just walking around new streets we didn’t go through before. We saw that famous bridge that everyone takes a picture on and checked it out. I must say that despite St. Peter’s cathedral being in the Vatican, this was, till this point, the most incredible catholic church I had ever seen.
* Head to Milan – Since Milan is touted as the “fashion capital of Italy,” I had high expectations. So much so that I booked 4 nights here. Maybe that is not entirely true. My girlfriend Sidney was finally meeting my family here, and flying in on the 11th. Also, the only available tickets to see The Last Supper were Sunday, and I had special plans with Sidney on Monday.
* Milan Duomo Area – Santa Maria Del Fiore being the most amazing church I had ever seen…lasted a few days. The duomo (cathedral) of Milan is mind-blasting. How this, one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen, is not considered a UNESCO site itself is insane. We also took a stroll around the famous shopping area in front of the cathedral.
* Milan Canals – Given that our last stop was Venice, I thought I would check out these canals to get a preview. They were utterly disappointing. In fact, most of the other things recommended in Milan, besides the cathedral, were kind of downers.
* Sidney Arrives! – I picked up Sidney at the Linate Airport after her surely wonderful layover in Beijing :).
* The Last Supper – How could we miss Leonardo Da Vinci’s Masterpiece in the Santa Maria Delle Grazie church. I was kind of confused on how such an important painting could be housed in this tiny church, which is very out of the way. I didn’t know, but the painting is directly on the wall, making any movement of it impossible. Despite having to book 4 months in advance, costing 15 euro a person, being able to see it for just 15 minutes, and having the strictest ‘no photo’ policy I’ve ever experienced, it was still worth it. It was also UNESCO Site #8 in the trip.
* Top of the Duomo – We headed back to the Milan cathedral and climbed to the top. Possibly the best view of the entire trip.
* Quick trip to Florence and Pisa with Sid – Given that Sidney didn’t have the luxury of time, I managed to book a quick day trip to Florence and Pisa so she wouldn’t miss them. It was awesome, but she still argues with me that the cathedral in Florence is better than the one in Milan.
* 6am train to Venizia – I had already settled to spend the last three days in Venice, so I booked in advance. Trenitalia offers incredible discounts if you book non-refundable train ticked far in advance, I’m talking 60-70%. I got these tickets for 9 Euro a person.
* Venice and its Lagoon – The entire city of Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (#9 of the trip) for good reason. I can’t really say I had a plan, as the city itself is the plan in this case. I feel bad for Florence because in any other country, it would be the star, but in Italy, it’s Venice. Check out the full article I wrote on Venice, and the articles on the things I recommend to do here and here.
* Amsterdam for the Day – I managed to arrange my flight to force a 11 hour layover in Amsterdam. Who the hell wants long layovers? I do!!! I think of long layovers as a trip within a trip. I was able to get a taste of Amsterdam, and allow for me to visit its canals, the 10th and final UNESCO site of this amazing trip. I am curious if anyone else does this?
These are some of the more notable things I didn’t get to do this time around, but maybe next time I will:
* Rock Drawings Near Milan (UNESCO Site)
* City of Matera (UNESCO Site)
* City of Siena (UNESCO Site)
*Amalfi Coast (UNESCO Site)
* Cinque Terre (Probably the biggest disappointment is that I didn’t visit this. Also a UNESCO Site.)
Overall though, it was an wonderful trip.