CIAO!!!! Our trip to Italy sprung from a get together that my daughter had with a few girlfriends one night. One of the friends was invited to a wedding in Florence in September…and by the end of the evening all four friends were planning to all go to Rome and then Florence for the week.

My daughter called me later that night and said “why don’t you come over after they leave and we’ll visit Rome and the rest of Italy”. Well, okay!!!

Getting there: Getting from State College to anywhere is a challenge. The best non-stop flights to Rome are (unfortunately) from JFK. I drove to my sister’s in NJ and had to pay for a car to JFK which was $155 each way. Its a terrible drive but the only other option is to take 4 trains and I just wasn’t up for that. My driver from Limo, Taxi Car Service was great; got us around traffic and we had a good chat, so that was easy. .

Flight: I flew out the evening of 9/4/22 on the 5:30pm Delta overnight flight from JFK airport. Scheduled to arrive at 8:05am on 9/5. Shortly after we boarded, the pilot announced that they were having trouble with fuel valve and so couldn’t fill the plane with the necessary amount of fuel. Ummm…we are flying overseas – QUEUE THE ANXIOUS PASSENGERS!!!

They estimated 45 minutes for repair. In 45 minutes they came back on and said what they tried to do to fix it didn’t work and they were trying something else. I don’t know about you, but I think I would have left it at a “mechanical issue” since we were going to fly across the ocean! Once they fixed it they made us all disembark from the plane and then re-board,, using facial recognition to identify us. In the end we were about 3 hours late to leave. What a start!

ROME 9/5-9/8 THE VATICAN: I arrived at the Crowne Plaza hotel by their shuttle which was $40 and met my daughter in the lobby. They held our bags while we left for our Vatican Tour Skip-the-Line Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel Group Tour, which was $62.56/pp and ran about 2-1/2 hours. We met our guide near the wall that surrounds Vatican City. She was a tiny Italian woman who took us through the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica at a pretty quick pace.

Vatican Guide on Tour (Viator tour $62.50/pp)
The photo hanging in front of the podium is of Pope John Paul I,
who was beatified by Pope Francis the day before we arrived.
A beautiful statue of a woman lying in repose. I didn’t get a chance to ask about this and am not sure if it is her tomb below her.

We worked our way through the large Vatican Museum and eventually to The Sistine Chapel. The ceiling is a marvel to look at, but the room itself had no feeling of a spiritual place of worship. It was more like a museum room, packed with people all looking up. We weren’t allowed to take photos-from what I understand its because the Japanese TV Network sponsored the restoration of it got the rights to photography of the restored art for a period of time. (mentalfloss.com). So, I hate to say this, but the Sistine Chapel itself was a bit of a disappointment. Of course, the ceiling itself is amazing.

The mosaics are incredible!
And the ceilings too!
The Laocoon Statue
Hall of Animals
Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica. Mesmerizing!

We left St. Peter’s Basilica and the tour starved so headed for our first pizza experience in Rome. Zucchini flowers are used in many various pizza styles here and this one included anchovies.

Zucchini flower, anchovy pizza at Osteria Delle Commari Rome

Next morning I started my day as Italians do with a cappuccino and croissant. Afternoon pick me ups are done with espresso.

Rome on my own: My daughter Taraneh was working so I ventured out on my own. I hopped on the bus and was going to hop off at the Metro station, but missed the stop. I asked an Italian woman sitting across from me if I had missed it, and a gentleman who lives in Rome but was from the U.S. stepped in to help. He asked me what I wanted to see and told me to ride the bus to the end of the line and that it would put me near to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. This was the first of many times when I asked locals and they went out of their way to help!

Piazza Navona

While Piazza Navona was beautiful, I was simply blown away when I turned the corner and there it was…this monster of a building incredibly intact and looking like it might be part of a movie set….nope, its real!!!

The Stunning Pantheon (pan means “everything” and theon “divine”). It’s said to be the best preserved Roman monument, + WOW factor!
Interior of the Pantheonthe light comes through a round opening at the top of the dome and is captivating (sorry I didn’t get a good photo).
Raphael’s Grave at The Pantheon – inscription on the tomb:
“Here lies Raphael, by whom Nature feared to be outdone while he lived, and when he died, feared that she herself would die”

I continued on from the Pantheon, strolling along the streets of Rome and stopping into little shops along the way. I made my way to the Trevi Fountain which was (not surprising) packed with people!

Trevi Fountain – 18th century fountain in Travertine and Carrara marble. I wanted to go back at night with fewer crowds but we ran out of time.

Taraneh met me in the Trastevere neighborhood in the evening and we enjoyed two very popular drinks in Italy. The Aperol Spritz and a Hugo! It seems that you cannot walk down the street anywhere in Italy without seeing Aperol Spritzs lined up EVERYWHERE.

Aperol Spritz and a Hugo at Mimi e Coco (photo below).
Mimi e Coco- Adorable spot and for apertiva, complimentary bruschetta board and friendly people!

We had dinner at Taverna Trilussa, enjoying ravioli and carbonara. I have to say that the pasta was very al dente, a little too chewy for my taste but the way it’s done in Italy. The service was great until our entree was served and then we were left to sit for a very long time. This would prove to be the case again and again in Italy. Dining for Italians is a slow, relaxed experience. Service is slow and they never bring the check, you basically have to hunt them down for it. It is very nice not to feel the pressure you normally feel in the U.S. to free up the table for the next people, but they go a little too far the other way. What’s kind of cute is that they don’t push suggestions on you to order more than you might need, they say something along the lines of “you can get this and if you want more you can order more” 🙂

The Collosseum – The morning of our tour we tried to change it to a later tour and they cancelled it by mistake. So, we only walked the perimeter. We had booked it through Viator and they refunded us the tour cost.
Cute little restaurant with a fresh squeezed juice window.

This little spot had a fresh-squeezed OJ take away window – on the other wall of the place was a big screen TV that was playing American music videos. I went to pay for the juice and the owner switched to a Hotel California video and said to me….”my favorite”! There were a few places playing Italian songs but American music played most places we went.

On our way to Florence – Masks are required on all Trenitalia trains. These trains are clean, on time, air conditioned and monitored.

FLORENCE 9/8-9/9

We checked in at the AC Hotel Firenze and left for our Skip-the-Line Florence Highlights and David Walking Tour (Viator) $87/pp. We walked around Piazza della Republica and Piazza della Signoria, viewed the Ponte Vecchio bridge, Pitti Palace and the legendary Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence). We enjoyed gelato and headed to the Accademia museum to view Michelangelo’s world-famous David sculpture.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence

We had the best experience at Trattoria Katti (pictured just above). Florentine Steak, grilled zucchini & peppers. We asked for an Italian after dinner drink and were served Amaro. I had the Montenegro & Taraneh had the Averna style. Delicious! The owner (pictured above, left) was so helpful, relaxed and made it a great experience!

Earlier that day our guide recommended we try this local specialty, from a food cart. The Lampredotto (tripe) sandwich is delicious, if you can get past the fact that it is cow stomach. It was the only food cart we saw in Italy although we saw one or two pastry walk ups. Seems like fast food goes against their approach to a relaxed meal.
Michelangelo’s David at Accademia Gallery, Florence.

Our best experience in Florence was in a little leather workshop called Infinity. Our guide had suggested that if we wanted to buy a leather bag we support this local shop, passed down a generation to the current owner, Aaron. He was so proud of his work and gave us a tour of the small workshop. I purchased a bag and never felt better about buying something in my life! Find him at http://www.infinityfirenze.com

Aaron from Infinity leather at work! (photo from website).

VENICE 9/9-9/10 My favorite destination overall, Venice is a marvel! Built by hand by driving wooden poles into the swamp-like area, putting wooden planks on top of that and large stones on top of the wooden planks…it is just amazing! However beautiful it is now, I could only imagine what it must have looked like when it was newly built! This city is magical!!!

The Grand Canal is the major thoroughfare but the side canals are charming. The center photo is one of the many wells that supplied water for Venice before an aqueduct was built in 1884. Rainwater was captured from rooftops and from gutters sloped around the well and then filtered. Venetians could access the wells twice per day (veneziaauthentica.com, promoting responsible tourism in Venice).

Descendants of Auschwitz victims named in the gold memorial plates (see next photo) in front of this building are still living here.

Our tour The Real Hidden Venice (Viator $50/pp), brought us out of the main tourist areas and into the backstreets and Jewish Ghetto (quarter). Tour Guide Nico was born there and still lives there today. He explained how Venice has lost most of its locals, who find a lack of opportunity there and have found the most lucrative option is to Airbnb their properties. He encouraged us to travel the backstreets to eat and buy from the remaining locals to experience an authentic Venice and to support their survival.
Memorials to those killed by the Nazis in 1944
Moonlight magic and hundreds of bridges of all styles!

Our guide told us of a couple on his tour who were from Las Vegas, NV. At every stop they made on the real Venice tour, the couple would insist that the Venetian in Vegas has everything that Venice, Italy does lol. Too Much!

Need to get from point A to B? A water taxi will get you there for $9.50
Water Taxi Station- from the street to the station & onto the water taxi

Gondola ride on the Grand Canal. A pretty busy waterway. I would suggest arranging a gondola ride to include the side canals.
Saw a few of these team gondolas on the Grand Canal

NAPLES 9/10-9/11 – We only had a short time in Naples, would have loved to explore for a full day. Unfortunately it was a pit stop on our way from Venice to Sorrento. We arrived at 4pm, had a nice evening there and headed for Herculaneum in the morning.

Ovo Castle in Naples – this was directly across the street from our hotel the Royal Continental which was reasonable (the rooms needed updating but the lobby and service was great). The hotel had a great location on the Lungomare di Napoli and we enjoyed pizza at the well known Sorbillo.
Rooftop Bar at the Royal Continental Hotel in Naples
Our waiter in Naples who took his job and his photo op very seriously.

HERCULANEUM -9/11

While the Trenitalia trains from Rome to Florence, Florence to Venice & Venice to Naples were fast, clean and air conditioned, the regional Circumvesuviana from Naples to Herculaniam, Pompei & Sorrento (these stops are all about 30 minutes from one another by train) are a whole different experience. We waited for an hour for our train (they had several delays) and this photo gives you an idea of how jam packed the platform was. Once the train finally arrived, there was a bit of a stampede to push onto the train. It was a little scary. Luckily we got on.
Herculaneum site which locals call Ercolano Scavi (excavation). Herculaneum ($18/pp entrance with self guided audio tour) is smaller and a more manageable site to visit than Pompei, which is huge! Pictured is a beautiful floor made of rock & shells.
Herculaneum was buried by volcanic ash when Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Incredibly intact walls with beautiful frescoes
More pizza before heading to Pompei. We kept hearing fireworks going off (during the day) and found out it was locals celebrating a wedding!
Mythological Daedalus sculpture at Pompei site
Pompei 9/11 ($30/pp entrance with self guided audio tour).

What I can say about Pompei is that it is huge, amazing and that a visit there requires good planning. We missed a lot by squeezing it into the day.

SORRENTO 9/11-9/13: A cozier town, following the bustling city of Naples.

Beautiful moonrise in Sorrento’s Hilton hotel.

Octopus and Sea Bream dinner at the hotel – both very good!

Downtown Sorrentoa vibrant and beautiful area!
Don’t know if I could enjoy time on that balcony (top left). Vertigo!
Beautiful statue at the overlook of the waterfront, Sorrento.
Adorable restaurant in Sorrento
Patiently waiting for his ride in downtown Sorrento:) Small children and dogs ride around with their owners on these scooters.
Vespas scooters & Fiat cars are the vehicles of choice & are everywhere.
1/2 day Capri fun & swim with blue grotto Viator tour $100/pp
This was a great trip with four other people. Our captain was very relaxed tried to make up for the fact that the Blue Grotto was closed with beers and snacks for us. The boats jockey for position to get passengers into each cave. They all maneuver their boats with great skill!
One of the several caves we made our way into. There are many other caves to explore – the red cave, heart cave and a cave that has a rock formation that the captain swears looks like the Virgin Mary.

POSITANO 9/13-9/14: A one of a kind town on the Tyrrhenian Sea, part of the Mediterranean. I just shook my head in awe of it!

We took a taxi from Sorrento to Positano ($94) for a white-knuckled drive on the high cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. Gorgeous, but if you have a fear of heights sit on the left side of the car and turn on the Calm app 🙂
Daytime view of this stacked city

We stayed at an Airbnb in Positano which was $300 for the night. Simple, convenient and with an open air type setting (locked, screened, iron gate) allowed us to feel safe while enjoying the nice night air. Hotels in Positano were priced out of site so $300 was a very good deal.

Same view of Positano at night – just breathtaking!
Blue Bar Positano is right off the beach with a fun staff and this Bruschetta was fresh & delicious!
Getting a wave from the chef at Casa Mele!
Owner Chef Raffaelle Mandara is on the far right of the photos. Reviews for this restaurant are great, but we found the tasting menu disappointing for the cost of it. Would suggest opting for a menu item. Wine pours were ridiculously light. Service was great at the beginning but once it got busy we were ignored. Seems the norm in Italy.

We took the ferry back to Naples and then a car to Rome, enjoying our final dinner at the same Crowne Plaza hotel (which was actually very good!). My flight home was a dream compared with the outgoing one. I much preferred the trip during the day rather than the overnight but the majority of those offered from the Northeast to Rome are overnight.

Tips & Trip Ups

  • Italians say “Take Away” rather than “Take Out”
  • Pasta is served very al dente (always heard that but now verified).
  • “Ciao” is informal and accepted for both hello & goodbye.
  • Almost everyone the towns we visited spoke a bit of English.
  • Euros are strongly preferred by taxi drivers and small shops and we needed about $700 in Euros for the trip.
  • Crown Plaza Rome: nice room, great pool, good food, okay service.
  • Trastevere, Rome neighborhood has got the nightlife.
  • You can store your luggage during your visit to Herculaneum $4/bag & Pompei (free) sites which made our itinerary possible.
  • Herculaneum is manageable to visit over several hours.
  • Pompei really needs an entire day & a tour. We did the audio tour because we needed flexible timing but it was confusing to follow and we missed a lot of key sites there.
  • If you decide to take the Circumvesuvia train, be prepared for possible delays, lack of information and A/C. It is cheap though and did get us there. Our expectations were too high due to Trenitalia trains we took to Florence, Venice & Naples. There is bus service, taxi or private car from Naples to Sorrento but we had 2 stops in mind so the train worked best for us. Careful planning in this part of the trip is recommended.
  • The ferry services are inexpensive & professionally run. If you have the option for the ferry (rather than bus or train) it is a great deal!
  • The free public beach at Positano is tiny but there is a guy that rents you towels ($2.50) and an umbrella ($15) rather than $35/pp. You don’t get a chair but the Tyrrhenian Sea is open to all, so if you are just there for a swim and not an entire day, that’s the way to go. The water was beautifully clear and warm!
  • We took several tours (all Viator). They were responsive and all pretty good. Do the work when choosing to make sure it is going to fit you itinerary well and deliver what you are most interested in.
  • The trip was great and we got to see just about everything we had wanted to see (although we were crunched for time, several times). A timetable of 2 weeks would have been a better timeline.
  • Check out veneziaauthentica.com, a site promoting responsible tourism in Venice before you go!
  • To each his own of course, but ranking my favorite cities: 1. Venice, 2. Positano, 3. Rome, 4. Sorrento, 5. Florence (not fair to rate Naples because we spent very little time there).

I could keep on writing!!! Hope this is helpful if you are planning to go to Italy soon and enjoyable to you if you can’t make it there but want to experience the beauties it offers!

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7 responses to “Italy in 10 days”

  1. Sounds great! For me the order would change for town ratings though to Positano, Florence, Rome and Sorrento. Didn’t go to Venice or Naples. But probably the best was the boat ride to the Blue Grotto and Capri. It is a beautiful country and well worth seeing for sure. Great people also.

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  2. Sounds great! For me the order would change for town ratings though to Positano, Florence, Rome and Sorrento. Didn’t go to Venice or Naples. But probably the best was the boat ride to the Blue Grotto and Capri. It is a beautiful country and well worth seeing for sure. Great people also.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is great! I’ve been to Italy twice. Going again in 2 weeks (cruise). Saw Pompei twice, going to Herculaneum this time. Rome, Naples, Florence, again. I’m disappointed that we aren’t going to Venice. It was scheduled but now ships are not allowed to port there. They go to Trieste instead. The nice thing about a cruise is they offer several areas to visit from each port, so we have been to Sorrento, Monaco, Pisa, Capri. Thanks for sharing your experiences❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great way to start my day visiting Italy through your eyes! I loved your descriptions and cheerful, honest reviews. Great pictures! Thank you, Amy!

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