Back in 2011, Kristen convinced me to do a study abroad trip through the University of Maryland to Italy. Of course, I couldn’t turn that down. 4 years later, I decided to enjoy Italy again, but in a different climate. My line-sister Ayana and I traveled to Italy to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. Here are some tips and suggestions as experienced during my recent 2 week holiday jaunt in Italia!
A guest post by Tamika F.
If you haven’t seen the movie Eat, Pray, Love, I would highly recommend it. Since I loved the movie so much, I made my entire Italy trip and experience into an Eat, Pray, Love journey (well, something like that -- I mostly just did the eat part).
I knew I wanted to go on this trip back in January of 2015, so I bought a one way flight to Milan for $460 from Newark, NJ back in March 2015. Even though I currently reside in Los Angeles, I knew I wanted to go home to D.C. for a few days. I purchased a flight from Jersey that was not only a lot cheaper, but easy to access by Bolt Bus.
After securing my flight, I had ample time to plan, book a hotel, and budget -- which was important since my trip was going to occur during one of the biggest holiday seasons of the year.
After that, I put together a 12 day itinerary full of clubs, museums, and other city adventures. My LS and I booked all of our train tickets to and from Milan, Florence, Pisa, Venice, and Rome through Rail Italia. That totaled around $400 total for the both of us. We purchased museum tickets in advance as well.
After that, we were left with budgeting for spending money. We planned ahead and accounted for food, drinks, and shopping. I would highly recommend getting a travel credit card for international trips that doesn’t charge you a foreign transaction or currency conversion fee.
Fall in LOVE in Firenze (Florence)
Florence is a huge tourist spot filled with amazing gelato, fashion, and beautiful architecture. Florence is the city where I could reside; the city that I fell in love with back in 2011.
We stayed in Florence for most of our duration, and took our day trips to Rome, Pisa, and Venice from there.
In Florence, we visited the Gucci Museum (Please no photos!), Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School), The Duomo, Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, and Ponte Vecchio Bridge. The food in Florence was exquisite. As we ventured throughout the Firenze streets, they were decorated full of lights and holiday cheer.
We also explored the nightlife scene at a few hot night clubs: Blue Velvet, YAB, and Colle Bereto. Be aware, Italians smoke a lot - especially in the club!
As we spent Christmas in Florence, we were told that during the day a lot of people go to mass at the Duomo/Basilica, and then spend the evening eating dinner with family. Unlike Americans, Italians turn up and go out into the streets late at night or even to the club. You would be surprised how many people we saw filling the club up on Christmas.
After Christmas Day, we took a trip to The Mall, a designer outlet featuring Burberry, Gucci, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, etc. While there, we ran into the lovely Tasha Smith, Tisha Campbell, and Soror Angela Bassett. Let me tell you, my 2015 was pretty much made after that. Now you see why I am in love with Firenze!
Roma (Rome) - The city of HISTORY and EATing
We spent our first day trip venturing from Florence to Rome on a 2 ½ hour train ride. Once we arrived, we walked to the Roman Colosseum, the Forums, and then Vatican City. I would suggest 1-2 days in Rome, however, you can pretty much see all the major sights in a day if you start early.
I would highly recommend the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain during the warm months as well. Before departing back to Florence, I stopped at one of my favorite restaurants, PastaritO to get farfalle al salmone and a limonata. Mm mm mm.
QUIET days in Pisa
Our next day trip was to the little town of Pisa. It was very small and quaint. We shopped all day for a nail salon, but everywhere was booked. Word to the wise, you must book an appointment at the nail salons in Italy ahead of time, no matter where you go. After our unsuccessful nail adventure, we decided to eat and connect to Wi-Fi at an outside cafe near a row of shops.
Finishing up lunch, we finally made our way to the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Overall, it took us an hour to get to and from Pisa from Florence. For Pisa, you only need about 3-4 hours -- anything longer and you may run out of things to do.
Water, Water, Everywhere: Venezia (Venice)
I have to go back, because it was COLD. We roamed the Venetian streets like lost dogs, but we eventually found our way after walking for over an hour. We passed by a few eye-glass shops, along with leather shops. If you want to go to Venice, go when it’s warm!
PRAY in Milano (Milan)
We left Florence on New Year’s Day and headed on a 2 hour journey to Milan. Milan is very eerie, but still city-like. I didn’t spend much time in Milan this time, but one thing I wanted to do was go see The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. These tickets are very hard to get because they sell out very quickly. I found our tickets on Select Italy for New Year’s Eve and purchased them immediately. I highly suggest going to see this painting if you are in Milan. I also suggest going to the Duomo, Shops, and visit the Marc Jacobs Cafe’.
My overall journey in Italy was amazing. Of course I did not want to leave, and I just started getting comfortable with the language. Now I’m planning to go back to Florence in September, along with visiting Naples and the Amalfi Coast. If you want any travel tips to a European country, please feel free to contact me at Tamika.Faulkner28@gmail.com!