my gap year: a trip to italy

at the beginning of my gap year, my best friend and i started planning a big, three-week trip that we would save up for throughout the whole year. after we finally decided on italy, we narrowed it down to four cities: milan, bologna, florence, and rome. we decided to meet at the milan airpot, and travel to each city by train. italy was so beautiful; the history of the country peeks through so many sites in each city we visited. i just had a great time, so i wanted to share my experience!

we traveled on a tight budget, so we stayed at airbnbs, took the cheapest trains, walked wherever we could, and ate in a lot. we still had a lot of fun! italy has many great experiences to offer for any type of budget!

 

milan

milan was our first stop in our little Italy tour. we arrived at mxp and took the bus into milan, where we found our airbnb. we had 6 days in milan, so we had time to pick our way slowly through all of the attractions.

 

 

milan cathedral - the milan cathedral is an incredible gothic church in the city center
galleria - the calleria vittorio emanuele ii is a big shoppinng mall (right next to the cathedral) that has a lot of high fashion brand
brera district - the brera district is in the center of milan with lots of cute cafes and beautiful buildings
sforzesco castle - the sforsesco castle was designed by da vinci and is used today for museums
lake como - lake como is a huge lake 2 hours north of milan with lots of cute little towns along it.

 

food:

 

favorite spots:
sforza castle park
piazza del duomo

 

bologna

second stop: bologna! this was definitely my favorite place to stay, regarding the apartment; it was in a very cute neighborhood and had a cute loft for the bedroom overlooking the sitting area. we had 5 days here, and though there was a little more to see than milan, we still had a very relaxed schedule.

 

towers - bologna's towers were used as defense and a symbol of wealth. these two are the only that remain in the city
san petronio - bologna's main church is on the piazza maggiore
piazza maggiore - a square in the center and is one of the biggest and oldest squares in italy!
san domenico - a major church and bologna that had many famous artists work on it
archaeological civic museum - one of the most important archeological collections in italy
university - the university of bologna is the oldest university in the western world
via degli orefici - a beautiful street with lots of nice restaurants
via drapperie - a cute little street of markets

 

food:

 

favorite spots:
giardini margheriti
piazza maggiore
piazza di porta ravegnana

 

florence

we had 4 days to see everyone in florence, which went very well! there was a lot to see, but we planned our daily itineraries by sectioning off the attractions so we didn't have to walk that far in between.

 

santa maria cathedral - the main cathedral of florence
uffizi gallery - one of the most famous museums, holding works from famous italian artists
galleria dell'accademia - holds a ton of sculptures from michelangelo (including the statue of david)
ponte vecchio - a huge bridge bursting with shops and people
piazza san lorenzo - the plaza on the basilica san lorenzo
piazza della repubblica - a plaza right in the city center, displaying the column of abundance
giardino corsini - botanical gardens and a beautiful palace
boboli gardens - a huge park lined with roman sculptures, nicknamed a 'green lung' in florence
piazzale michelangelo - a square with a fantastic view over florence
via de' ginori - a cute market street!

 

food:

 

favorite spots:
piazza della stazione
via dei calzaiouli
gardino di boboli
piazzale michelangelo

 

rome

rome was our last stop! we had three days to see the entire city, so it took some planning and fast paced walking. rome was definitely my favorite city because you can see the history anywhere you go. there are archeological sites between streets and marble buildings everywhere!

 

colosseum - the largest amphitheater ever built!
pantheon - a roman temple that is now a church
vatican city - the roman catholic church headquarters
st. peter's basilica - rome's largest basilica, located in the vatican city
piazza navona - a square with two beautiful fountains
palatine hill - one of the most ancient parts in rome, showing a huge collections of ruins
trevi fountain - the largest baroque fountain in rome featuring the sea god, oceanus
spanish steps - a fantastic set of steps that lead up to a church
villa borghese - the third largest public park in rome just north of the spanish steps
altare della patria - a monument dedicated to king victor emmanuel ii

 

food:

 

favorite spots:
altare della patria
st peter's basillica
along the river tiber (view of statues on bridges)

 

my top tips for traveling italy:

  • at big attractions, watch out for men selling bracelets and other scams (there are a lot of them, but another i encountered was a man trying to sell two bracelets for 10€, and when you don't have 10 exactly, he offers change for it, takes the bigger note, and leaves). they target tourists, so keep your hands in your pockets or somewhere they can't reach (because they will physically grab your arm).
  • you can't buy public transport tickets on the bus/tram/trolley! you have to find a tabaccheria store or something similar and buy tickets there.

Image result for tabaccheria

  • learn some basic italian. most people speak english, but if you go into a small store or visit a small town, they might not understand everything. just have some basic phrases under your belt in case you get into that situation. plus, it's a little more polite to start with parla inglese? than to launch straight into english.
  • bring long sleeves and long pants or something to cover up for cathedrals. if you cover your knees and shoulders, you'll be fine. most large cathedrals have guards outside that will check your clothes and send you back if it's not appropriate.