We spent a lovely two and a half weeks in Italy in September. Our Italy itinerary was full of beautiful historical sites, Rome, Sorrento, Tuscany, Venice and some amazing foods. It was also one of the most rigorous trips we have ever taken believe it or not. More physically demanding than most of our trips, but Rome is a sprauling city and there is so much to see. We learned some valuable lessons about hauling luggage over cobble streets too…..need to travel even lighter.
Our Italy itinerary covered Rome, Sorrento, Tuscany & Venice.
Day 1 Rome
We arrived in Rome about 2 PM as we always try to do. We rented a nice little apartment through AirBNB near the Metro and were taken there by private car. The host made the arrangements to have a car waiting. It cost the same as a taxi, only they were waiting for us instead of us getting in the taxi line.
Once settled in our apartment, we scouted the neighborhood, found a little grocery store, did some shopping, ate, and went to sleep by about 5:30 or 6:00. Typical for our us, we slept straight through till the next morning.
Day 2 Rome
This day we just kind of wandered around, no rush, learned how to use the Metro and the bus lines. We ended up at the Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps which were so covered with people we really couldn’t even see the steps and then we visitied the Castel Sant’ Angelo. All worth seeing if you are there. We finished the day with dinner in a lovely little cafe we found on a side street.
Day 3 Rome
We took a Uber Black (no regular Uber in Rome) out of town to visit the Branch of Jehovan’s Witnesses. Returning to our apartment that afternoon we just relaxed in our apartment and had dinner nearby which was fabulous. Tiny little place, but the food and wine were delicious.
Day 4 Rome
This day was packed, we started with a guided skip the line tour of the Vatican Museum. I highly recommend skip the line tours. The tour itself is very long, it’s very crowded and can be very hot even when inside. The regular lines to get into the tour were at least 1 hour in length and you stand outside in the heat. The museum is absolutely worth seeing if you are interested in some of the great artworks of the world. There is so much to see it is difficult to even begin to take it all in.
We finished our tour and had a late lunch right outside Vatican City and then felt energetic enough to keep going. We headed over to the Coloseum and ended up exploring Palentine Hill. Both are spectacular ruins. We spent about 2-3 hours on Palentine Hill looking around and when we were done, we were pretty worn out. Got a bite to eat on our way back to our apartment by way of the bus. We put on a whooping 7.6 miles that day walking. So you might want to spread some of this out to another day.
Day 5 Rome
This was another somewhat free day. Had I to do it again, problably would have left Rome on this day. Not big city people and we were ready to move on. But we went to Centro Storico late, did a little shopping and returned to our apartment early to get ready for our next day departure.
Day 6 Travel to Sorrento
We always leave travel days just that, travel days. No other real plans and this day turned out to be really long. Not that we planned it that way, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. We left early on the Metro to catch our train to Naples. There is no easy way to get to Sorrento, but if you have it in you, it’s worth going. Once we arrived at the train station it started pouring, so hard that it began throwing the train schedules off.
Our train was canceled but no worries, we were given tickets to another train departing about 30 mins later. But then, that train was canceled and we were bumped to a train departing about 2 hours later. The wind was blowing the rain into the terminal and the Rome terminal is seriously short on seating. People waiting everywhere. It was cold and honestly pretty miserable.
Finally we got on our train to Naples and we could relax. Arriving in Naples we planned on taking the Ferry to Sorrento. We were just going to walk from the train terminal to the Ferry docks. Wasn’t far on the maps, but there was road construction we had to navigate around on cobble streets dragging luggage. That after we had dragged the luggage up and down several flights of stairs.
As we approach the docks it starts raining and we are told the Ferries were not going anywhere due to weather. Back up the hill to the train terminal. This time we took a taxi. This is a smaller commuter train station that does connect to the main train terminal. We caught the train to Sorrento. It was a Sunday afternoon, so the train was empty. We were happy because we had heard stories of petty theft on these trains.
We arrived fairly late into Sorrento, but what a cute little town built along the cliffs. We stayed at the Tasso Suites which I hghly recommend. Really nicely kept and the price was very modest. We walked around in the rain a bit and had a really nice dinner at Ristorante Pizzeria Tasso (no relation to the hotel). Great pizzas and wine.
Day 7 Sorrento
This day we were supposed to take a tour to Capri, but when we woke up it was pouring and it continued to rain hard all day. Our trip was cancelled, so we walked around, did some shopping and we both got massages right there at the hotel. It was a perfect rainy day activity.
Day 8 Sorrento/Pompeii
Our Sorrento tour had been rescheduled for this day which was mostly sun and a bit breezy. We headed down to our meeting point to find that even though the sky was clear, the ocean was very rough. There were some ferries going out, but they were rocking badly. After waiting for about an hour our guide informed us that he thought we should cancel and try again the following day. Thankfully we had one more day.
We just switched our plans and decided to go to Pompeii and I really don’t regret that at all. Pompeii was one of those most amazing things I have ever seen. A massive city that had been completely covered by super heated ash when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Everything stopped in an instant.
The ruins were accidentaly discovered by a man digging in his yard and today they have excavated most of the city. Buildings, streets, homes, all left pretty much in tact. Pompeii is a must see. It’s a fairly long day, there with a lot of walking so wear comfortable shoes. I recommend getting a tour. You just learn so much. However our tour guide lost about half of our tour group? Unfortuneatly, we were amongst the lost. How do you lose 20 people?
The way to get there is on that commuter train we came in on. During the week it is just packed and we saw first hand the activity of the pick pockets when a man standing near the door grabbed a very large man’s wallet as the train door opened at a stop. I heard people gasping and as I turned I could see someone down on the ground on the platform right outside the door. My husband saw what had happened. The man who’s wallet was stollen slugged the man who to snatched his wallet and he went to the ground. He threw the wallet back at the owner, jumped up and ran.
That is reality on this train. I wouldn’t not ride it, because they really aren’t looking to hurt people, just steal. Just know where your pocessions are at all times. Keep your wallet, purse, backpack, etc. close to your body where you can see it. I would also think it wise to stay away from the door where a thief can make a quick exit & run for it.
There are lots of places to eat in Sorrento. We used Yelp for recommendations and were satisfied if not thrilled every time.
Day 9 Sorrento/Capri
We finally made it to Capri! It was a beautiful day, sea still a bit rough, so be prepared if you tend to get sea sick. We took the earliest ferry that we could get and we were on the island by 9:30. We took a semi private tour and we boarded our very nice tour van and began our journey up the stunning and extremely narrow, Mama Mia Road.
As we neared the top there were a couple of other tour buses trying to pass each other. They were overlapping each other by about 5 inches. With some manuvering they managed to pass each other. As the tour van passed us, I kid you not after pulling in the mirrors there was about 4 inches between our vans and on the wall side, there was about the same. The driver of the other vehicle smiled and waved, like it was just another day at the office.
We headed straight for the Piazza Vittoria where we got on the chairlift to ride to the summit of Mount Solara. Each chair is a single. If you are not one who like heights, this is probably something you could still do because you are usually no more than 20 feet from the ground, at the very most 30, but it is only for moments. The incline is steep and the view is beautiful, making it well worth the ride.
From the top you get a panoramic view and breathtaking views of the cliffs and the sea below. We could see Pompeii, Sorrento and Naples. Beautiful!
After returning to Piazza Vittoria we spent a some time looking around the shops and there is a nice easy walk, with some beautiful views that takes about 34 mins. It ends up at the stair case that you could take if you wanted all the way back down. Some say there are about 921 steps. Our guide who took the steps with a couple who wanted to do it, claims he counted and there were over 1000. We to our lovely tour bus back to the bottom.
Shocked when we reached Capri at about 11:30, the crowds we enormouos, so do arrive as early as you possibly can. We decided to go straight for lunch to try and beat that crowd and we ended up at Pensione. We had a lovely corner table with a stunning view.
From there we took a long walk through Capri and down the Krupp path to the Gardens of Augustus or Giardini di Augusto. It’s a really nice walk that takes you through some high end shopping, gelato shops, and cafes. The path is moderately easy, a few steep spots, but the garden and the view at the end is really worth it if you can.
Day 10 Travel to Tuscany
We got up very early to catch our train. It was a weekday, so we purchased our train tickets to the day before just to be sure we didn’t miss our connecting train in Naples. We stopped in Florence just long enough to pick up a rental car and headed out on the open road toward Siena.
We arrived late afternoon, stopped at a market, picked up some goodies to back to our Tuscan AirBNB. It was a good 30 minutes outside of Siena on a scienic and winding road through Tuscany. We arrived to find the sweetest little Tuscan village that would be home for the next 4 nights.
The village of maybe 20 real old and loverly residences included a pig farm. We were met by our very nice host although she spoke no english, she made a real effort to make sure we had everything we could need. Her daughter who does speak english is normally there, but had to be out of town at the time of our stay.
It was somewhat cloudy and rainy, so we decided to drive awhile to Pisa. Pretty drive, but a bit far. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is something I think is worth seeing, but it was a daytrip and once we saw the tower and had lunch in a great little cafe, there wasn’t much else that we wanted to see there. We headed out and drove around the country.
We went to Siena which is a really old walled city. Lots of narrow old cobble streets and history. I enjoyed the museum, we found a really great little cafe off the beaten path. Unfortuneately for me, the piazza area was extremely touristy. Lots of cafes with not so great reviews and lots tourist goods. That was disappointing. But it is a really beautiful city.
Italy Itinerary cont.
I was really excited about seeing Saturina natural thermal pools. I had seen pictures and it was stunning. It was about a 2 hr drive from our Tuscan Villa and it appeared we were out in the middle of nowhere until we pulled into the area of the pools. There were 3 tour buses parked out on the road and the parking lot was extremely full.
It is a beautiful place and it was a beautiful weekend…….that might have had something to do with the crowds. It was worth seeing, but I will let the picture tell the story.
Day 14 Travel Day to Venice
We returned to Florence to return our rental car and caught our train to Venice. The skies were looking very threatening and by the time we reached our hotel it was starting to sprinkle. We stepped out of the train station and OMG, some how it had slipped my thought and planning process that there are no roads and no taxis in Venice! It looked like it could start raining at any minute and how would we get to our hotel. A little questioning, which wasn’t easy, people weren’t very helpful we learned about the water bus.
We got on the water bus and took a lovely cruise down the Grand Canal to the other side of Venice. It was probably a quarter mile walk to our hotel. Neat little place down a little walkway no wider than a sidewalk, but it had a street name.
We headed out to look around and find dinner. We had used Yelp and knew exactly where we wanted to go. Not so easy, phone navigation works really poorly there due to the extremely narrow streets and buildings that are 3-4 stories tall. Satellite just can’t see you. We wandered around for a long time, tried to get directions to no avail. We eventually just ran into it, but it was packed. Getting tired we decided to just just at this place we saw. It wasn’t full, but we were tired.
What a fabulous mishap! The food at this restaurant was amazing. The absoulte best meal we had, hands down in all of Italy so far. We shared a steak drizzled with balasmic and pasta with olive oil, garlic and a little red pepper flakes. The bottle of wine was the perfect addition.
Day 15 Venice
This was our only day in Venice and we woke up to 50 degrees and rain. We were determined not be disappointed. We were given a free trip out to the glass factory. We were in a smaller semi private water taxi that goes out on to what I imagine was the freeway of water ways. It was all really interesting, the blown glass was exquisite, but all out of our price range. On our return we were dropped off at near the Jewish Ghetto. We booked a tour and had lattes in a little cafe while we waited for our tour. Also very interesting and heartbreaking what people do to people.
We had hoped to go to the Gugenheim Museum but after walking around the Ghetto and heading back toward our hotel we were really wet and really cold. We had lunch and went to hunker down in our hotel room to warm up and let the clothes dry out. We were not prepared for this much rain even though we had umbrellas, the rain was really coming down.
Both of us, being kind of tired decided to head back to the restaurant from the night before, it was just that good. We had the exact same thing, right down to the bottle of wine and dessert.
Day 16 Travel Day to Rome
Caught a train late morning back to Rome. It had been so cold over night that as we pulled out of the train station the mountains in the distance were covered with snow. Disappointed that we really did to see much of Venice, from what we did see, I highly recommend at least a couple of nights there.
We arrived in Rome in the early afternoon, checked in to our hotel near the Collosseum. We wandered around on our way to dinner and we ended up having a really delicious last meal at That’s Amore’. Tiny, packed place, because the food was fabulous. The chef/owner came out from time to time, visiting with her patrons, making sure everyone was having a great time and that food was perfect.
Finally that evening we finished with a night time Underground Tour of the Collosseum. It was great. We learned much about the history of nearby ruins before entering the Collosseum at about 10:30 PM. Being there in the dark I am sure gives it a whole other feel. It was quiet at we wandered around the tunnels below what would have been the floor of the arena. Tiny rooms that would have at one time housed wild animals and prisoners before that would be moved to the arena to entertain others by giving their lives. Very sobering.
Day 17 Homeward Bound