Courtney and I recently made our way to Italy to spend a week exploring the country. Italy is one of the countries on our bucket list, so when an amazing flight deal came along we jumped at the opportunity. We made stops in Venice, Rome, and the Tuscany region. Italy is a beautiful country. From the Tuscany countryside to the canals of Venice, there was a lot to see and a lot to photograph. I also have to mention that we didn't have a bad meal the entire time we were in the country. We had a wide variety of meals, from the cheapest street food to high end delicacies. I'll break up our time in Italy into two journal entries, the first part covering our time spent in the countryside, and the second half spent in Venice and Rome. So without further delay, let's get into it after the jump!
We arrived in Rome about 9:00 am, ahead of our scheduled arrival. We moved pretty quickly through passport check, and spent very little time picking up our rental car. The primary reason we got a rental car was to get out to our first AirBnb destination. I'll go ahead and mention this now, I would not recommend renting a car unless you really have to. Most of the destinations we visited were easily accessible by train. There is a lot to see in Italy that would require a car for you to get there, but if you're focusing your trip on the more typical destinations (Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, etc.) then just stick to the trains. It's so much easier and very cheap. Anyway, after we picked up our car we made our way out of Rome to the tiny village of Fornoli. We stopped off in a tiny town for lunch. After lunch we decided to take the scenic route to get to our final destination. We drove through the Tuscany region, making our way through Chianti. I highly recommend taking a drive through the Tuscany region if you end up renting a car. Driving through the region during autumn was extremely beautiful. The one part of the drive that was a little frustrating was the lack of places to stop the car to take pictures. There were a few opportunities for photos I wish I could have taken, but there was no place to park the car. Either way, it was a beautiful drive that I highly recommend. We finally got to Fornoli and our AirBnb.
The next day we made our way to the Cinque Terre region. Cinque Terre is a coastal region that consists of five seaside villages. The area is also listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. We didn't spend time in each of the villages, but we did stop off in Vernazza and Monterosso. We drove from Fornoli to La Spezia to take a train to Monterosso. I wish we had spent some more time in the area. It was extremely beautiful. Not to mention it was pretty low-key due to us visiting in the off-season. In the summer months, this area is full of visitors. If you were to visit in the summer and wanted to stay in the area, book a place in advance, because everything goes months in advance. The area also offers visitors a scenic hike that connects all the villages. If we had spent a couple of more days in this area, I would have loved to try the hike. Unfortunately, we had limited time so we could only spend a day in this area. If you can, I would recommend at least spending a couple days here if you can.
It was nice taking our time to explore Monterosso and Vernazza. It's an extremely picturesque area. As I mentioned, visiting in the off-season allowed for a more low-key experience. After we had finished exploring Monterosso, we hopped back onto the train to get to Vernazza. Once we got to Vernazza, we did the same as we did in Monterosso, explore. I really wanted to get the shot of the town from the overlook. It's not a very easy spot to find. We had to ask a couple of the locals where the entrance was to the hiking trail that takes you to the overlook. If you walk from the train station going towards the docks, you notice a pharmacy on the left. Across from that pharmacy you will see an alley way with stairs that go up. The alley way can be distinguished by green arrows that point to Monterosso. Once you go up the alley way you eventually get to a path, this is the hiking trail that you would take to get to the overlook. It's only about a 10-15 minute walk to the overlook. You can't miss it due to the fact that the trail is narrow and doesn't split off. After the hike we got some lunch at the appropriately titled "Lunch Box". It was a little charming restaurant that offered some quick and delicious food. After lunch we had to get some gelato because at that point in the trip we still hadn't eaten any. It was only day two, but when you're in Italy you can't waste time not eating gelato. After our sweet treat, we explored more of Vernazza and then made our way back to Fornoli.
The following day we made our way to Florence for a day trip. The drive into Florence was pretty good until we actually got into the city. Florence, like many cities in Italy have their historic districts and city centers blocked off to most traffic. If you don't have a permit to drive in these areas you will be penalized, even if you have a rental car. Luckily, most of these areas are clearly marked, making it easy to avoid going into these zones. Needless to say, trying to find a park spot was difficult. We were able to eventually find parking near the train station. Once we parked we took a stroll through Florence. Like many towns in Italy, Florence is a walking city. It's easy to walk due to the fact that everything is in close proximity to each other. We walked to Ponte Vecchio and through the Uffizi Gallery. After our walk we stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. After our lunch we headed out to the Cantine Lunae winery. We were greeted by our friendly tour guide, and then proceeded through the tour of the facilities. At the end of the tour we had an amazing wine tasting. Of course the tasting only prompted us to purchase quite a bit of wine. After we finished up with the tour and tasting we stopped off at a small pizza stand for a quick and cheap dinner. The first part of our trip went by so fast. Before we knew it, we were boarding a train to Venice. The next journal entry will highlight our time spent in Venice and Rome. Below are some more shots from the first half of our trip In Italy!