It’s been a full month since my husband and I were trekking across Italy for our honeymoon. As neither of us had ever been to Europe we weren’t sure what to expect. Luckily, the rumors of “The Best Place in World” rang true. From famous landmarks to coastal towns, we quickly learned there are truly too many sights to see in Italy to include them all in a trip – even on an extended two week one like ours. So rather than a strict here-then-here travel guide, I compiled a mess of travel trips paired with famous landmarks (and a few notables on public transportation) from Venice to Sicily.
Win: Possibly the best decision we made for our honeymoon was to travel in a shoulder season. Rather than fighting crowds and high temperatures, we explored the ancient cities of Italy in late-April right before the crowds arrived.
While the beginning of our trip had us bouncing from city to city, we
expertly luckily planned a 4-night recovery in Sicily at the end of our trip. Using public transportation in a language you don’t understand turns out is very exhausting when mixed with tight time tables. Allowing ourselves some respite the last few days of our trip with no bus schedules or metro fares to keep track added some necessary relaxation.
Lesson learned: Don’t book Airbnbs for only a night. The quick turnaround leaves you lugging your suitcases through unknown streets and repacking more than anyone should within 24 hours. Also, the savings in Airbnbs never felt worth the convenience of leaving luggage in the hotel’s care for a few hours.
Word to the wise – different countries have different carry-on sizes. Double check where you are going if you are traveling with a carry on and save yourself a $300 heartbreak.
Our trip had us exploring from Northern Italy to Southern Italy over 16 days, meaning we needed a way to cohesively track our hotels and must-sees. Enter Wanderlog. An effective travel task list that links your hotel reservations, daily excursions and restaurant necessities all in one location.
If you are booking a trip that is more than a simple week at a resort, I highly suggest a travel planner like Wanderlog to help you keep effectively track your vacation.
From well seasoned professionals to wandering aficionados, there are so many good travel guides for Italy already. I would be remiss if I didn’t share the ones that greatly influenced our trip. (Travel guides that come from far more seasoned European travelers than myself.)
The Italian Cities
Our first Italian city and what we now refer to as the ‘perfect landing spot for European first-timers.’ Rich with Italian charm and possibly the most timely public transportation, we encountered through our trip, Venice is an easy city to adore. The tightly built streets make wandering an art form. Walk along the main thorough ways and take a few side streets to discover hidden gems like, Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo.
A peaceful gondola ride is an easy way to discover hidden gems like the Opera House and the apartment Mozart stayed in. After your gondola ride, top off your afternoon with drinks on the Club del Doge balcony. There is truly no other city in the world like Venice and every corner will leave you in awe.
Restaurants: Vino Vero, Cantina do Mori, Club del Doge, Il Palazzo Experimental, Ai Mercanti
Splurge: Club del Doge
Save: Public transportation was easily the best! We also used credit card points to stay in a hotel and had a 30 minute bus ride outside of the city.
Stay: 2 Nights
A hidden gem worth the small train detour on the way to Rome. The hilltop fortress can be described as an idyllic city with tree lined streets and cobblestone drives. With blooming wisteria and creeping vines along quaint doorways Orvieto feels like a movie set. Our one regret? Only planning one evening here.
La Badia is the icing on the cake in this picturesque town – an old abbey redesigned into a modern day haven. A steep walk into the town of Orvieto will find you among local restauranteurs featuring classic Italian fare topped with ‘tartufo.’ (Truffles!)
Restaurants: Trattoria la Palomba, Ristorante Il Cocco, Trattoria Vinosus
Splurge: A taxi ride back to La Badia
Stay: 2-3 nights exploring the countryside
The bustling capital of Italy was quite the surprise for me. I typically shy away from large cities and marked Rome as the ultimate tourist destination even before we arrived. The historic center did have many a long line, though it is also overflowing with culture, arts and even better food with plenty of spaces to spread out.
The food options in Rome were incredible. An easy stroll can quickly get you to the best pizzeria and long-standing trattoria. And right around the corner from those you could easily wander into a local favorite modern restaurant. Do yourself a favor and book a local cooking class to truly immerse yourself in Rome’s love language. Plus,
Invest in a pair of excellent walking shoes before you head to Rome. As walking tours for the Colosseum and Sistine chapel are the best way to learn as much as you can just prepare for being on your feet for 4 hours. And just know even a full week in Rome will only have you scratching the surface of what the city has to offer. (If we are ever lucky enough to get back I’ll be making sure to get a tour of Nero’s Golden House.)
Restaurants: Piano Strada, Pizzeria La Boccaccia, Gelateria Consoli, Giulietta Vino e Cucina
Splurge: Hotel Relais Maddalena near the Pantheon and FOOD
Save: Public transportation was super easy to get around in Rome
Stay: 2-3 Nights
Naples… errrr Sorrento
Oof. The gritty city of Naples ended up making the busy streets of Rome look mundane. While the pizza is incomparable, as is the passion of Naples’ chefs, the chaotic streets deemed too much for us and after a full day in chaotic Naples we found ourselves on a train ride to quieter Sorrento.
While I doubt Sorrento is immune to busy streets, there were plenty of walking-only streets lined with fruit vendors and small shops that helped us escape endless traffic noise. The cliffside, wisteria-lined restaurant of Hotel Bellevue Syrene is the best spot to relax with an afternoon bottle of wine.
Restaurants: Gran Caffè Cimmino San Carlo in Naples, San Carlo 17 – Trattoria e Pizzeria for the best pizza in Naples
Splurge: Afternoon bottle of wine at Hotel Bellevue Syrene in Sorrento
Save: Public transportation! Though we gave up on the finicky bus schedule and relied on the Metro in Naples.
Stay: 0 Nights – use Sorrento as a hub for an afternoon in Naples and as the landing spot for access to the Amalfi Coast.
The first part of our honeymoon that we booked was our stay in Tonnara di Scopello. Though once you see the historic hotel built next to the immaculate blue sea and jagged, rocky cliffs I think you would see why. It’s a luxury hotel that straddles heaven and history. It does allow public tours during the day, but the staff does a good job roping off the common areas and allowing guests tranquility.
We wish we could have had a few more days of sun in Sicily, but even at the beginning of May the waters were warm enough for swimming in the private beach at the Tonnara. Each hotel room offers something the others do not. We ended up loving La Rocca, a covered room perched high above the seas. But the private balcony in La Guardia would have made for a picturesque outdoor dining spot during the warm season.
With a quick 20-minute hike up from the Tonnara sits the city of Scopello. A small town built on cobblestone alleys that lead to restaurant after restaurant. It’s definitely built around tourism but the charm of Sicily was ever present in the traditional menu fare and cobblestone streets. If you are wanting to explore beyond the 20-minute hike I definitely suggest a car! Public transportation is much more limited on the island.
Restaurants: Ristorante Bar Nettuno, Ristorante La Tavernetta, La bottega di Beppe, Arancini from the Tonnara
Splurge: Tonnara di Scopello
Save: Walking ~20 minutes up to Scopello from the hotel for evening dinners
Stay: 4 Nights
The one city I didn’t include is Palermo! The capital of Sicily was a speedy 18-hour stay for us with a late flight in followed by an early morning down to Scopello.