Italy - 2 Weeks
YELLOW ICON: FOOD
BLUE SHOPPING BAG icon: PLACE TO GET UNIQUE SOUVENIR
BLACK CAMERA icon: PHOTOGRAPHY LOCation
Maroon Museum Icon: Museums
GREEN LIGHTENING BOLT icon: NOTABLE ACTIVITY
RED ICON: WHERE WE STAYED
PURPLE ICON: DESSERT
We aren’t big planners so we never pick out restaurants in advance unless we need reservations or it is a holiday. This trip we were traveling with 8 people so we did more planning than we normally would. If it was just us two traveling we never know where we will end up that night so always pick a dinner spot last minute with the help of Yelp. We go off of stars and Yelp reviews for everywhere we eat!
La Bottiglia- Huge Sandwiches! Great place to grab lunch. We ordered a variety and sampled them all. A glass of wine was also very cheap.
Rossopomodoro- Great place for big groups. This was the biggest restaurant we ate at in Italy. Also, Pizza was delicious.
Trattoria alla Rivetta- Great authentic Italian food. The waitstaff was so fun and made us feel like we were family.
Scalinetto- Small place tucked away in a quite alley this place had great Gnocchi and Ravioli.
Trattoria Giovanni- We had Christmas Day dinner here. They had AMAZING truffle pasta. We made reservations.
4 Leoni- Quaint restaurant. We made reservations in advance.
Ristorante alle Bandierine- Very good restaurant within walking distance to the leaning tower of Pisa.
Wheat, Fruits and Flour- Best pizza EVER! They make rectangle sheets of pizza’s and you can pick pieces from any of them so you can easily try 3 o 4 different pizza’s!
Jaipur- We love Indian food and try to eat Indian at least once while abroad. Everything we had here was delicious! I will say, it was in a different area of town but we didn’t feel unsafe.
La Fonderia Artistica Valese- The largest selection of bronze products hand-casted in the Valese foundry. They make all the brass accents you see on the gondolas in Venice. If you want to see these products being made head to the Fonderia Artistica Valese (their warehouse) you can watch them make all things bronze. Check with the store front first to get warehouse hours.
The Workshop of Paolo Brandolisio- Handmade oars and gondola forcolas have been made here for generations. They make the gondola forcolas for all the gondolas you see in Venice. The shop looks like a working workshop (because it is) but step inside for a closer look at the making of history. Look or ask for miniature forcola models to purchase!
Infinity Firenze Leather- Handmade leather goods. If you ask they will take you on a tour of the back where they have all their dry leather ready to be made into bags and belts.
Kara Van Petrol- Local family homemade leather purses. I actually bought a purse from here and it is my all time favorite purse.
Officina Profumo - Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella- Started in the 16th century this place is more like a museum than a perfume shop. They have perfumes, soaps, herbal elixirs and gifts.
Scarperia e San Piero (Village outside Florence)
Take an afternoon road trip over to the town of Scaperia. This small village is the home to some amazing handmade items (the guys especially loved this place)
Coltellerie Giglio S.n.c.- One of the coolest stores in Scarperia. They sell Knives, handmade copper pots, having kits, brass scissor all created by the show owner's grandpa.
Coltellerie Berti- One the original pocket knife makers in Italy making the famous Scarperia style pocket knife.
Coltellerie Consigli Di Giustini Gabriella- Another one of the original knife makers in the Scarperia.
Travel time from florence- Two hour drive round trip.
Berti Knife Making Workshop- Take a walk around the factory and watch the famous Berti knives being made by hand.
Il Marmoraro- Stop into this marble engraver's shop, hand him the phrase you like, pick the the marble piece you want the phrase engraved on, and watch him chisel away. Truly a unique souvenir.
MUST DO THINGS
Fonderia Artistica Valese- Hand-casted bronze statues, door knockers, gondola boat decorations are made in this foundry. Watch the workers sculpt statues and fire them in the kiln. Check with their storefront La Fonderia Artistica Valese in advance to check hours.
Doge's Palace- Iconic Landmark of Venice. Great place to spend the afternoon and explore Italian history. We bought tickets at the hotel in advance.
St Marks Basilica- One of the most visited sites in Venice. This Basilica was beautiful. If you are traveling in peak season get tickets online to avoid long lines.
Note: They will not let you go inside with a backpack. You can check your bag at their Bag Check that is to the left (when facing the church) down a side street. Ask a guard they can direct you with exact directions. It is not far at all!
St Mark's Campanile- The bell tower of St Mark's Basilica. Take the elevator to the top for a beautiful view of Venice from above. Buy tickets in advance.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute- Huge beautiful Basilica on the other side of the canal. Amazing history. There was a gypsy outside this basilica that would not let us inside unless we gave her money. She actually pushed me as I tried to get by her. The Basilica is FREE so do not feel like you have to pay anyone to get inside.
Galeria Academiei- Statue of David. Get tickets in advance if you are going during the busy season. We went in the winter and it wasn’t necessary. You do not need a tour for this museum unless you want one.
Piazza della Signoria- This piazza is the Renaissance. Fountain of Neptune and other ancient greek god statues.
Uffizi Gallery- Popular art museum located across from Piazza Della Signoria.
Berti Knife Making Workshop- Take walk around the factory and watch the famous Berti knives being made by hand
Tuscany Region (close to Montepulciano)
Rinomata Rameria Mazzetti Workshop- Step into this shop and watch this famous coppersmith show you how his family has made copper items for three generations. If you are a newly married couple ask him if he can make you a copper circle medallion. He custom makes them in front for you and gives you a prediction for how many kids you will have in the future. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
Bottega del Rame- Cesare the coppersmith from Rinomata Rameria Mazzetti Workshop sells his pieces in this store ran by his wife.
Podere Il Casale restaurant and farm tour- Take a farm tour in Tuscany to see how cheese is made, see working farm animals and get a glimpse into what life is like on a working Italian farm. After your tour, you are treated with a homemade lunch. All the food, cheese and wine served at lunch is homemade from the farm. Advanced reservations are required.
Montepulciano (Wine tour)
Podere Il Casale restaurant- We started our wine tour day at Podere farm they offer amazing homemade wine during their lunch that is made right on their farm. (They do not have a cellar for your to tour)
Historical Cellar of Talosa Farm- This wine tour was done in their wine cellar. Great history of the town and how wine is made.
De' Ricci- This was our favorite tour. You sample wine in their great room and then venture into their cellar to look at the big barrels of wine.
Advance reservations are required for all of these wine tours
The land of the long lines.
Colosseum- You HAVE to get tickets with a tour group if you want to get inside the Colosseum. We were under the impression you could just get tickets at a window outside the colosseum…. which you can, but you won’t get in. We had bought out tickets online and when we got their the ticket pickup line was 2 hours long and then the line to get in was about two hours long. We flagged down a tour group and hopped in with them and got right inside. You don’t have to do the entire tour with the group if you are more of a free spirit like us.
Pantheon- Very long line…went in through the exit… normally there is a security guard there so you might not be able to do this. I know we were THOSE people. We were just so over lines. lol
Trevi Fountain- BE AGGRESSIVE. We got to the front by politely pushing our way to the front.
Spanish Steps- Walk up to the top for a great picture of the square below. Once again… they are a very busy attraction. Plus, this area is a huge shopping area so that adds to the people but it is worth braving the sea of people to say you walked on the Spanish Steps.
The Vatican- We did the private tour for this and we were PRAISING the good heavens that we did. The line to get into the Vatican without a tour guide was hours long like we would have just not gone long. Our guide picked us up at our hotel, we went inside through a different entrance than the masses and we got right in very very painlessly. This is probably the only time I will say this but we actually really enjoyed having a tour guide to tell us about the history of everything we were seeing. Once inside the Vatican it is VERY crowded. Huge tour groups. Sea’s of people. Just be prepared.
Note: Booking tickets was difficult. We recommend having a travel agent set up your tour for you.
Rialto Bridge- The Oldest of the bridges crossing the canal. This is a beautiful photo location at sunset!
Acqua Alta Library- The most original book stores we have ever been to. The books are piled up in bath tubs and gondolas. Go through the store and out the back to take pictures on the staircase of stacked books.
Piazza San Marco- Big open area in one of the most photographed areas in Venice. This is a great place to get a family photo.
Florence Cathedral- You literally won’t miss seeing this site. We were awe struck by it the entire time. We were there over christmas so it was closed but tickets in advance would be necessary.
Piazza della Repubblica- Beautiful Archway to take photos around. They have unique vendors set up in this Piazza sometimes.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa- Get tickets to go talk inside the Leaning Tower and head to the top for an amazing view of the city. We happened to catch the sunset from the top and it was beautiful!
Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, The Vatican