Italy is a great place to visit. It’s very doable to ride the train from place to place. I will talk about multiple cities on here. We’ll start in Venice, go to Florence (which is the only city I’ll talk about that I haven’t been), then on to Rome, and finally head to Naples. I have been to all of them except Florence, but I have heard raving reviews from everyone I’ve ever talked to who has visited Florence. They all say it’s the prettiest city. I’ll discuss the things I’d like to do if I ever get to go back.
I come from the United States. I recommend flying into Venice. It’s a long flight. It’s nine hours coming back from Venice, but a little less going toward Venice. Maybe seven and a half hours on the way there. You want to fly into Aeroporto Marco Polo di Venezia.
The flight from Philly to Aeroporto Marco Polo di Venezia is about 7 and a half hours. It usually departs around 8 or 9pm. After takeoff they’ll serve dinner—I always decline dinner in favor of trying to sleep. It will be very hard to get some sleep on the plane, but a few things can help. The first thing is to make sure you’re not too hot or too cold. I always bring a spare jacket in case I need to cover up with it. On the overnight flights they also provide a pillow and a blanket. Adjust your situation until you are feeling just right. Some people will bring ear buds to block out noise, and maybe even a face mask to cover the eyes and make it nice and dark. The next problem is trying to rest your head. This is much trickier. The pillow they provide can help a little, but not as much. If you are against a window, the pillow can help lean up against that side of the plane. The best solution I’ve found is something similar to the TRTL travel pillow you can find on amazon. It compacts down to be pretty small. When open, you wrap it around your neck. There’s a rigid section that keeps your chin supported. I can sleep a little bit with that on. It’s still very restless sleep, and by the time the plane lands in England the next morning, you will feel exhausted. Make sure you have a pen. In years past they have asked us to fill out a customs card. If you don’t fill it out on the plane, no worries—they have more and extra pens before you get into the line to clear customs. Read the customs card and fill the form out correctly. It’s specific on how to do so.
The planes usually arrive around 7:30 or 8am. Your body will feel like it is 3am (if you live on the east coast). In addition to not sleeping well the night before, this first day will be tough. You will very likely be exhausted. You’ll head to pick up your bags first, and then you’ll head to customs. You’ll hand them the card they had you fill out on the plane (this has been changing in various places—it may change here too. Just follow the instructions). When you go up to the customs agent, they’ll usually have a brief conversation—they’ll ask where you’re going, how long you’re in, where you’re from, etc. They’ll be gaging whether or not you seem like you’re lying. Just answer honestly and to the best of your ability. After you’re cleared by the agent, proceed on your way, and to an ATM. I recommend pulling out maybe a hundred dollars/about 50 euros, depending on the exchange rate. Most places will take card, so save your cash for the places that don’t. Almost everyone took cards, so the cash is just for emergencies. There was at least one restaurant we were surprised by on the last day whose credit card machine stopped working, and we had to scramble to pay the bill. After you’ve gotten some euros, head on out of the airport.
To get to the train to take to your hotel (which will be just outside of Venice), you’ll want to take the water taxi/ferry which is just outside the airport to Venice. Then you’ll walk from that stop to the train station in Venice. It’ll take about 45 minutes to get there. Hop the train to head to your hotel, Crowne Plaza, Venice East.
Day 2 or 3 you can take the train from Venice to Florence. It’s only about an hour away.
Day 4 or 5, you can take the train from Florence to Rome, which is only a couple of hours or so away. Rome is about 3 hours away from Venice if you want to head straight there, or if you made Florence only a day trip from Venice.
Day 6 or 7 you can take the train from Rome to Naples, which is an hour or two away. I’d recommend a day trip in Naples instead of staying there. If you want to see Pompeii, which I would recommend, you can hop off the train at Naples, and pick up the local metro train to both of those stops. Pompeii’s stop is Scavi.
Crowne Plaza, East Venice. So this hotel was just outside of Venice, making it a bit cheaper. Down the street is a pizza place, which had great pizzas. We could see it from the hotel. It wasn’t busy by that area at all. The road was pretty quiet, and we never saw a ton of people. It is connected to the train by a very short walk. If you leave the hotel, you follow the walkway to the left, which will take you under the tracks. And then you hop out on the train station platform. It’s very convenient. I think it was the third stop from the train to Venice, or vice a versa, but I don’t quite remember. It wasn’t a terribly long ride.
If you were going to Taormina, Sicily, I would say Da Cristinas. That has the best pizza (and arancinis) I have ever had in my life. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to lump Sicily into this trip. If you can make it work, please head to Da Cristinas. It is amazing.
In Venice, the food was definitely a bit more touristy. In Venice itself I was not impressed with where we ate. On another day we ate at a nice place in Burano, which is an island near Venice. It’s small, so just look for a restaurant and that’s probably the right one. It wasn’t bad.
In Rome, the food was also a bit touristy, but it was better than Venice. We did not find a good local place. The trick is to find a place everyone is speaking Italian, and go there. We did have excellent gelato there, near Piazza Navona. I think it was called Quinto Gelateria.
In Naples, the only place I ate was a little food stand vendor outside of Pompeii. It was just a slice of pizza. Nothing fancy, but it wasn’t bad.
I feel like after being in Venice for a couple of days, that I’ve seen what it has to offer. It’s a bit trashy, so don’t be surprised by the piles of trash and the smell. It is also still very beautiful. We saw a lot there, so I’ll try to cram it down into three things.
This is the only city on this list that I have not been to, as I stated above. I would love to visit. Everyone I’ve ever talked to who has been to Florence has raved about the city, including my brother. Because of that, it felt wrong not to include it. What I will be listing are the top three things that I’ve researched and seem to be the best things to see. I will update this travel guide with actual places if I ever get a chance to go back.
I’m not usually a city person. I love a good hike in nature, away from the over abundance of buildings. Rome is an exception to that. It was very pretty, and one day was not enough time to see it and appreciate it all. There is history around every corner. There are artists in the squares selling their art, next to sculptures by famous artists that are hundreds of years old. It’s amazing.
Naples was very crowded with confusing streets that I never quite understood. Pompeii and Vesuvius were things that stood out to me that makes it worth the trip.
Most people will be able to speak English. We learned the hard way that when you ask for directions in Italian, they will answer you in Italian. If you know Spanish, it does help. Sadly, I only know basic Spanish, so it only helped a little. We started asking “para ingles” instead, which translates to do you speak English. It was a lot easier to navigate the conversations after that. They knew we didn’t speak Italian, but they also often seemed to be friendlier that we spoke enough to ask. Cuanto Costo is how much is it. Dove is where. So, Dove Trevi Fountain is where is Trevi Fountain. But I recommend asking para ingles instead. Gratzi is thank you, and very important to know. We used it a lot.
There is so much to see and do in Italy. It’s also very accessible by train, which is nice. I don’t know that I would have wanted to drive there. Sicily is also amazing. It seemed to be not as crowded, and more relaxed than the other places I’ve visited in Italy. It’s just much further away. It’s all gorgeous. There is history, nature, and art blending together everywhere we went.