Hello, beautiful humans! How is everyone? For me, life has been a bit of a world wind lately, but I’m not complaining. It’s been an incredible and motivating time. Last week, I took a trip to Italy with my sister, and just wow. I found love, and it’s with a country. I hadn’t been to Italy since my junior year of college (two years ago), where I studied art in Florence.
Being back was like stepping through a time portal. Has that ever happened to you? Where places and faces and smells and views bring you back to a certain period in your life, and all of the sudden, it’s like nothing has changed. Weird. I guess Italy has that effect on people (or at least me). I was instantly reminded of the person I was when I first stepped off that plane in Rome back in the fall of 2014. Some of the best memories I have were from abroad; I made lifelong friendships and chipped away even further to the person that I truly am.
Of course, there were good and bad times abroad, and being back last week, reminded me of all of it. It was surprisingly healing in a way; while I gained a new confidence in myself studying abroad, I forgot that there was still much insecurity when I was there. It’s easy to look back at a memory through rose-colored glasses, and I definitely thought of my time abroad that way. Being back reminded me of those not so stellar times.
But I’m glad I went back last week. Though I felt the happy and sad emotions, the confused and amazed, and the angered and at ease while walking the streets of Florence, it was also a beautiful indication of how much I had grown since then. I thought I knew myself then, but I feel even more at home with the person I am today. I guess that’s life though, right? It’s a constant journey. There’s always more to learn!
Anyways! I’m sure you didn’t expect a whole reflection, and just wanted to get to the good stuff: things to do and where to eat! Because when in Italia, si fa come gli italiani 😉
Okay so here we go! A list of place to see, things to do, and where to eat in both Florence and Rome!
‘Nuff said. This place is legit. Absolutely stunning. Bonus: you can also attend Mass on Sundays (held in Italian). Going to church in one of the most famous cathedrals in the world? Yeah, that sounds pretty chill.
Il Museo delle Capelle Medicee
Seriously, this place is underrated. Located next to San Lorenzo Market, it is one of the best kept secrets of the city. Not a lot of tourists mark this on their maps as places to go, but it’s absolutely stunning inside. You get to see the tombs of the Medici family, one of the most powerful families in Italian history- without crowds. If that doesn’t entice you, then I don’t know what will.
Palazzo Piti/Boboli Gardens
Basically the Versailles of Florence (though my Italian friends would be very offended if I called it that because its meaning/reputation is nowhere near that of Versaille), Palazzo Piti used to be a palace owned by Lucas Pitti. Absolutely stunning inside, filled with beautiful art, and just outside is the Boboli garden. Located on the otherside of the Arno (l’altroarno), it’s a must-see.
You know those famous shots of Florence that everyone always sees on a postcard? Well, this is where they’re taken. A stunning panorama of all of Florence- the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, San Lorenzo, Palazzo Vecchio, etc. To get there, however, there is some serious hiking up a hill of steps, so I definitely recommend refueling with some gelato and pizza afterwards! 😉
San Lorenzo/Mercato Centrale
This is where both the Leather Market and Mercato Centrale are located, and it is a must! Literally, one of my favorite activities is bargaining with the leather dealers (I once got a 500 euro leather jacket down to 80 euro!). Once you’ve bought yourself a leather jacket, wallet, gloves, bracelet, and the like, you have to check out the Mercato Centrale! Below is basically a standard (but beautiful) food market and above is an array of different eateries to get fresh pasta, pizza, gelato, pastries, and coffee (think of it like Eataly!).
Oh the memories at this place. Home to some of the best pasta I’ve ever eaten! The best part is that the people treat you like family. One time while abroad, my friends and I had made a reservation here, and the wait was a little long, so the owner surprised us by bringing out some crostini on the house. They also have gluten free penne pasta! Just ask, and they’ll make it any style for you!
If you’re in Florence, you have to go to one of the Gusta restaurants. For pizza, I’d check out Gusta Pizza, but to sit outside in Santo Spirito while dining on some amazing pasta and prosciutto e melone, I’d say Gustaosteria is where it’s at!
Though it’s a chain, it’s an Italian chain with some of the best gelato in Italy. Try the Cioccolatto fondente with the cremino (basically vanilla gelato with a thick layer of nutella). It’s incredible.
Gelateria dei Neri
We happened to be wandering around random streets (there’s no logic to how the streets are designed in Florence, be prepared!), and stumbled upon this magical little gelateria tucked away on Via dei Neri. It’s far from the touristy sections, so be prepared to speak some Italian and taste some amazing homemade gelato!
This is where wine is cheaper than water (okay basically all of Italy is like that), and it’s not a bad thing. Very meat heavy, but amazing. The house wine for a big casket bottle is only 7 euro. Also, not many tourists know about it, so when you go, you’ll feel like you’re really eating like an Italian (psst, if you don’t speak Italian, it might be good to have Google Translate up haha! But it’s worth the experience!). When in Italy, do as the Italians!
Need I say more? The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and so much more. This place is amazing. Be aware though, you must have your shoulders and knees covered! It’s a rule out of respect for the Vatican.
La Fontana di Trevi
Yes, like from Lizzy McGuire! Okay, so I didn’t get my Lizzy moment, but this place is GORGEOUS! It’s definitely a must see when in Rome! Plus you have so many great restaurants surrounding you too! All of it is in walking distance from the Colosseo and Roman Forum as well.
Il Colosseo/ Roman Forum
When you go to the Colosseo (Coliseum), I definitely recommend getting a walking tour. It usually takes about 45-60 minutes, and you learn so. much. It’s only about 30 euro per person as well (and you don’t tip- that goes for everything! Don’t tip at restaurants, for services, or anything! It’s considered rude in Europe!). The history of the Coliseum is so rich and deep, and you start to understand more how Italy got to be.
La Soffitta Renovatio
You guys. This was recommended to me by Jackie from Gluten Free Follow Me, and OH. MY. GOODNESS. Literally the best pizza I’ve had in Italy. And they can do everything gluten free! Pasta, bread, pizza, regular dishes, you name it! Plus everyone who works there is absolutely hysterical and so sweet! If you speak a little bit of Italian, try speaking with them and they’ll appreciate it so much!
Just past the Trevi Fountain, this little restaurant is perfect for pasta and people watching haha! My sister and I sat outside, chatted with other restaurant goers (both Italians and other Europeans!), and enjoyed some pasta and wine while watching the skies darken. It was beautiful. Good news: they do gluten free spaghetti any style sauce!
They’re found all over Italy! Seriously go.
Il Gelato di San Crispino
When the line is too long for Venchi, head to il Gelato di San Crispino (just a few steps from Il Chianti), and be prepared for nutella heaven! They have so many different chocolate hazelnut combos (I thought there was just nutella but apparently I’m wrong haha!). It’s absolutely delicious!
So there ya have it! A semi-brief rundown on my top Italy go-to’s and my experiences there. While it’s a long travel, it’s worth every minute of it. I’m already itching to get back!