Most likely you have so many places you would like to visit in Italy that it will be impossible to see everything you want in one trip! This leads to the biggest travel planning mistake that most people make in Italy: They try to see too many things in too short a time! Slow down and take the time to explore this truly mystical country!
Here we will focus on the places we have visited, and how we enjoyed them. As we always like to say there is most certainly no right or wrong way to travel.
Off to Rome!
More than likely Rome is at the top of your list for places to visit in Italy. Our first couple of times visiting Italy we did not go to Rome, but this last time in Italy (May 2019) we visited Rome during a cruise port stop. This brings us to a couple of different things that we should bring up. First of all, if you are flying into Rome you will most likely be landing in Leonardo de Vinci international airport. We have had layovers here in the past. While being quite large it is quite easy to navigate here compared to other European airports. Italy is also a Schengen country which makes things easier. I will touch on this in the next paragraph. From a cruise ship, you are actually in the port town of Civitavecchia, about 80km from Rome. We have a really helpful tip to getting there from your cruise ship. But first ...
What is a Schengen country?
To start there are 26 Schengen countries. They are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. So what exactly is a Schengen country? The "Schengen area" is a European group of countries that do not have any restrictions for tourists traveling across their territory. Through this agreement, they have all agreed to abolish all types of border controls on their mutual borders to make it easier for tourists traveling to other Schengen countries.
Let me explain further, and most likely a bit easier! Once you visit any of the listed Schengen countries listed above and go through passport control, you can then move freely to any other country on that list without going through passport control again! This is really very nice! Not to mention a huge time saver. Here is an example. We recently attended a wedding in Greece, by landing in Athens. When we had to come back to fly out to our cruise from Barcelona Spain, we had a very short layover in Rome of only 45 minutes. This would normally be impossible. But since these were all Schengen countries, all of our flights were just like a domestic flight back home in the United States! Naturally, at your departing airport you will still have to go through security, but not passport control! So connecting via Schengen countries is no different from connecting on any other domestic flight, so go ahead and pick those shorter connections. Do be aware though that terminal changes could still affect your time on a layover. We knew in our case our short connection would not require a terminal change. Interesting to note, the Schengen agreement which led to the concept of free movement between member countries was signed in a small winemaking town called ... you guessed it ... Schengen in Luxembourg.
Rome from the cruise terminal
For you cruisers, the following worked out great for Lorie and me recently. Transportation through your cruise line will be really expensive, as well as a taxi, etc. Lorie and I wanted to get into Rome as fast as possible so we could get some sunrise shots. We were so happy we did! We managed to be among the first few off the ship, and we walked at a brisk pace to the train station where we had previously booked our train tickets online. Simply head to the base of the long pier, around the Renaissance castle that serves as the port authority, and through the exit (this can be quite a ways as the dock is insanely long; ask about the public shuttle bus along the pier if you need to). Cross the street to turn right down Via Garibaldi. The train station will be on your left after about a five-block, 10-minute walk. There is enough written in English to make sure you get on the right train. Tickets are only 8 euros a person. Now you can choose from a couple of different stop points in the middle of Rome. It is that easy, and you got here for only 8 euros!
When in Rome
Remember Rome was not built in a day, and you would be hard-pressed to see it all in one day, so plan accordingly if you only have one day to spend here. Our two main goals were the Colosseum and Vatican City. After exiting the train station we zipped on over to the Colosseum for some quick sunrise shots, then grabbed a cab to Vatican city. We were not able to get very close there due to some ceremony happening, but we are very happy with our morning photos pictured above! Believe it or not, these were our only two goals for the day, and we went back to the train station and back to our ship. It sounds crazy I know! We have heard from so many people that Rome is one of the craziest busiest places to visit. We met with a lot of fellow cruisers later that day and heard the horror stories of the crowds everywhere. So we were quite pleased with ourselves and the plan that we stuck to. Gave us a pretty empty cruise ship to enjoy that afternoon as well for some more photos we wanted to take. A win/win! But wait! Aren't you supposed to be helping us with a guide to Rome? Well ... there is plenty of that on Mr. Google we figure. This way at least you know a quick way in and out, and how we pulled it off. As many of you know by now reading our articles and following our Instagram, we tend to turn left when the crowd goes right! Now with that said ... we do plan on flying into Rome soon and spending more time there when we actually have days instead of "a" day.
We have been to Naples several times and our one guaranteed stop every time is to this amazing little family-run pizzeria Corso 283! We have tried many pizza places in Naples, this one stands above the rest. Trust us you MUST visit this place when in Naples!
Be sure to say hello to Marco when your there, and tell them Lorie & Shane sent you there! We gave them a hand with their social media a couple of years ago. We love them that much! They welcome you to enjoy watching your pizza being made. Their very simple Margherita pizza will change your life. I know what your thinking. Sauce, crust, cheese and a bit of basil. So simple. That is what makes it so incredible. How could something this simple, be so amazing. You need to find out for yourself. Also be sure to try their white sangria, made with massive chunks of fresh juicy peaches they grow right next door. How special is that! You would think I own a stake in this place the way I'm going on about it. I promise I do not, lol! From the pier just walk due North towards the very large in the distance Castel Sant Elmo. You can't miss it. After about 15-20 minutes based on your pace, you will come across a pretty busy street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Turn right onto this street and it will be on your left-hand side about 5 minutes away. The walk on the way there is quite memorable as well. You will encounter very small alleyway streets, with food vendors, entertainment and people who just live there. So many sights and smells. You will never forget it!
If you're looking to burn off some of those calories from that "best ever in the world" pizza you just enjoyed, we highly recommend a hike up to the top of Castel Sant Elmo. You can find the steps leading up to it by walking back on the same street in the opposite direction from Corso283. Just ask a local to help point you to the stairs. Then it is stairs ... and stairs ... and I mean stairs! Over 1000 of them in total. Will give you room for that must have gelato stop afterward. At the top of the castle, we captured this photo of Lorie summoning the ships into the harbor! It is an incredible view! On the way up the stairs, you will see people walking up and down to enter their apartments scattered in little doorways lining the steps. There is so much about Naples that will capture your heart, I could go on and on.
Always remember that the best-hidden treasures of a city most likely will not be in any guide book! Wander around without a map, and you will find your most memorable experiences! Just get lost with your love!
Florence / Pisa
We have a real special gem of a find here in this region. We have been to Florence and Pisa in the past of course to see the leaning tower. We were not taking much in the way of photos then, so nothing here to show you. Just be prepared for a massive crowd there as it is the most visited place on the West coast of Italy. We decided here on our last visit we were going to go on an adventure and we found one! When visiting here on a cruise which is what we were doing on our last trip here in May 2019, you actually stop at a port town called La Spezia. This is located around 50 km from Pisa and 90 km from Florence. If you look at a map of Italy in this area you will see a little hook on the map due South of La Spezia. Our goal was to see this place on the map called Porto Venere. You won't find this place in any guide book. Although you just may now after we start talking about this incredible find! We generally like to go on our adventures on foot so we started by making our way around the harbor so we could just follow the coastline. It started out quite easy with a nice little road to follow, but then it took a jut to the inside right, so we abandoned this path and started climbing across a rocky shoal following the coastline. This quickly became impassable though so we made our way back out to the road. About 90 minutes had already gone by, and since we had to be back at the ship in around 7 hours we made the decision to wait at a bus stop we found alongside the road. We had already worked up quite a sweat anyway! Figuring it would follow the coast we hopped on and after about 10 stops (20-25 minutes) we arrived at what looked like the tip of the peninsula we were looking for. After a short walk up a beautiful little village hill, we were treated to this mysterious little window off to our right-hand side.
Peering through this window we were treated with a utopian view of a cove, where the water was so blue it seemed like something from a dream! Around the corner was a similar-looking doorway that led down to the bottom of the cove with a small walkway along the edge of the water. We were so excited!!
These are the kind of adventures we live for!
In the coming months (as I type this it is June 19th, 2019), we will be featuring a lot of photos on our Instagram page from this place. Be sure to check them out! Everything about this place was absolutely surreal, and the best part is there were hardly any other people around. We pretty much had it to ourselves. Waves were crashing into the cove hitting the massive rocks, splashing a good ten to twelve feet in the air. It was such a spectacular sight. We ended up spending a solid two hours here, even finding this secret little cave that we (dangerously I might add) ventured into via some very slippery moss-covered rocks.
We often are asked how we find places like this in our travels. The simple answer is by accident usually! Just wander around and see where the day takes you. Lately, the big trend in travel is for everyone to go to the same popular locations that are often shown on Instagram. We like to do the exact opposite, and find our own locations where we can enjoy them practically all to our selves! The photos below are from the same location. That is a small church on the left side of the rocky outcropping. Lot more coming to future posts on our Instagram page!
Our next trip to Italy
We are already in the early planning stages of our next trip to Italy! Besides spending more time exploring Rome (Just think of the hidden adventures yet to find there!) our next trip to Italy will also include Venice, and we are really looking forward to spending some time in Milan, and nearby Lake Como. This area features some of the most dramatic scenery in the entire world and is located against the foothills of the alps. Looking most forward to getting lost in these more inland areas of Italy for the first time!