Back from Italy – Here is a Summary of My Trip with Tips Based on My Experience

Dr. Doug’s Pictures and Tips for traveling to Italy
On September 20, 2022, I left for Italy with three friends. We returned on October 4th. If you haven’t been to Italy, I strongly suggest you add it to your bucket list. You can sign up for a tour if you aren’t into vacation planning like I am. My issue with tours is that you bring the crowd with you, and they lack flexibility. Book your airfare six months in advance and your rooms at least four months out. We used Airbnb and had great success. You get a lot of space and all of the amenities of a nice apartment.


Starting in Milan

  • Italy’s second-largest city is known for finance and fashion. It’s clean as big cities go and features many one-of-a-kind sites. Start with the Duomo, which is the big cathedral. Be sure to get a ticket that includes roof access. If you can, go back and see it at night. Then check out Leonardo Da Vinci’s huge iron horse, which stands 21 feet high and is 24 feet long. You can see it from the street any day and the garden it’s in is open on weekends. Next, it’s the Cimitero Monumentale di Milano, which you have to see to believe. It’s enormous and filled with amazing statues. Even if you are not a big opera fan like I am, you should catch a performance at La Scala, perhaps the most famous opera house in the world. They also do ballet.


Lake Como Region

  • The towns along Lake Como are a short train ride from Milan. We got off at Varenna and took a ferry to Bellagio. For lunch, we found a restaurant that overlooked the lake, and we had the best view I ever had for a meal. Consider doing a few nights here.

Cinque Terra

On to Cinque Terra

  • These five small towns on the coast south of Milan are embedded in the hillside and are rather unique. There are trails between the towns that I would say are challenging due to some uneven surfaces, elevation changes, and a lack of railings in some places. If you don’t want to walk, all towns are connected by trains and ferries. We stayed in La Spezia, which is a small city just south. It’s also a nice place to visit. From there, we took the train to Corniglia, the middle town. After walking 400 stairs to the town, we then hiked north to Vernazza (ugh). We then took a ferry north to Monterosso and trained back to La Spezia.


There is Nothing Like Rome

  • Heading south, we hit Rome. I had been there before, so I planned two full days of sightseeing for the member of our party who hadn’t been there. We started at The Colosseum and went on to The Palantine Hill and the Roman Forum. They all come on one ticket, which you should purchase well in advance. We then walked by the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps to the Pantheon. They are all free. On day two, we started by having breakfast at the Trevi Fountain. You can’t see this enough. We walked to the Borghese Gardens and took a tram ride around it. We saw the Borghese Gallery, which is not that big but entirely beautiful. The Bernini statues are the high point. Next, we took a pre-purchased tour of the Vatican, including the Sistine Chapel. That included dinner. when we finished, Saint Peter’s was closed, but we got to see it at night. We did see it the following morning after a 40-minute wait in line. It’s not a bad place to wait, and there are no advanced fast-track options.


Sorrento, Naples, Pompei, and Capri

  • Naples is Italy’s third largest city. I found it to be crowded, as have others. We booked a tour that took us to the hot spots. Earlier in the day, we visited the ruins at Pompei, which are also amazing, with an eight-person tour. The next day we took the ferry from Sorrento, where we were staying, to Capri. This island is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It juts out of the sea with steep cliffs and crazy roads. Start by taking a boat ride around the island to see it all, including several grottos where the water is bluer than any I’ve seen. From the port, you can take the Funicular to the town of Capri if you aren’t up for a lot of stairs. You can’t see it all in one day so consider staying there if you can afford it.

Additional Tips

  • Be sure to buy the intercity train tickets a month or two before you go as they will cost less and save you some hassle at the stations. There are a lot of reasonable short tours of one day or less, and we did several, including a gourmet dinner in Rome and a visit to a farm in the Sorento Hills where we made and ate our own pizza and consumed wine, olive oil, and cheese made on the property. The information at RickSteves.Com and his books that are specific to each town were a big help. All of his PBS videos are available on his website.
  • In 2019, I also visited Venice, Verona, and Florence with side trips to Siena and Pisa. These places are comparable to those discussed here. Everywhere you go, there is a lot of history, beauty, and great food at very reasonable prices, especially for Americans, as the dollar is very strong now. Not everyone speaks English, so try to learn some common words. I also relied on the Google Translate app. Be ready to do a lot of walking. We averaged over nine miles a day. You could cut the mileage by using taxis and subways more. Look for subway turnstiles that offer touch-and-go access with your credit card. You will find someplace that only take cash, so be sure to have some Euros in your wallet and one Euro coins for some toilets. Each member of our group contributed to the planning and finding our way around, so be sure to team up if you aren’t going alone. There is a lot more to seen in Italy so let me know where I should go next at Doug@DrDougGreen.Com. Thanks.
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