Italy – an overview of recommendations + general advice

Rome (3-5 days)
– Hop on/Hop off bus is good
– Trevi Fountain (l like the shoe store SORE in the square)
– Pantheon is my favourite
– Piazza Navona for the fountain of the four rivers.  There are great little food places if you go a few blocks over.
– Coliseum and Forum are nice (no need to pay unless you want to – you can see lots from outside)
– Spanish steps are fine but not exciting.

– St. Peters and the Vatican Museum are a must do (Hall of maps and Sistine Chapel in the museum)

– favorite hotel in Rome is the Alpi (walking distance to the train station)  http://www.hotelalpi.com
– good shopping on Via Nazionale and Via Corso
– the little pizza shops are great (they sell squares of pizza)

SOUTH of ROME

Naples
I’ve never liked it but it is the home of pizza…  they’re huge and cheap there.

Pompeii (1 day)
Totally worth spending  a day – it’s huge.

Sorrento (could use it as a base for a week)
Lovely, relaxed place.  It’s good to use as a base for the Amalfi Coast, which is gorgeous.
– Capri as a day trip (Blue Grotto is over-rated). Go up as high as you can for the views.  Take the funicula to Capri and you can go up to AnaCapri if it isn’t too foggy.
– Anywhere along the Amalfi Coast is fantastic and you can go by ferry or bus

– lemon flavoured chocolate is surprisingly good.

Sicily
I’ve only been to Messina, not Palermo and it was nice. The scenery is quite different due to the volcanoes.
You could take a boat to Malta from there if you wanted.  

South East Coast
We’ve only been to Bari for a cruise, which is fine.  That area is not touristy and is more the ‘real’ Italy.  Depends on what mood you’re in… there isn’t much to see.  There are probably boat trips over to Croatia from Bari though.

NORTH of ROME

Assissi (1-2 days)
Loved it – very unique in that it’s a religious town.

Florence (2-3 days)
– Church (Duomo)
– Art Museum (Uffizi to see the Botticellis)
– Accademia Museum to see David (must do)

– good leather selection

Tuscany in general
You could easily rent a place for a week or two and drive/bike around to the towns like San Gimignano, etc.  Take a cooking course?

Pisa (1-2 days)
Kind of dull. If the tower is open, you have to booked at least a month in advance to go up.  The church and baptistry is quite nice.  If you head into the other side of town, it’s quite reasonable re: restaurants and shopping.

Cinque Terrre (3-5 days)
A 45 train ride from Pisa.  It’s gorgeous.  No cars really and not many hotels.  Best bet is to rent a place.  I used appartamenticinqueterre.net and they were very good.
Lots of fresh seafood and tons of hiking trails.  There’s a train that goes between the 5 villages as well.  Good place to rest.

NORTH WEST

Haven’t been to Turin or Milan

LAKE DISTRICT

Lake Como is gorgeous and really enjoyed taking the boat out to Bellagio.  You could easily spent a week here just taking it all in.

NORTH EAST

Verona (1-2 days)
I’m a big fan since it’s small and manageable + they have a mini Colosseum.

Venice (2-3 days)
Amazing but staying on the island can be a pain in that the hotels aren’t very good and 3x what you’d pay on the mainland.
Definitely wait in line to get into the church in the main square (San Marco).  I didn’t find the Doge Palace worth the money.
Other than wandering around, there isn’t that much to see culture-wise.  
Don’t eat in the tourist areas… go a street or two over and it’s half price.   Be super careful in San Marco square.  It costs about 30 euro to sit down (you pay to listen to the music).

I really enjoyed going over to both Murano and Burano.
Easiest way to get around are the public boats (vaporetti).  They can also be used for sightseeing and to go to the train station/airport.

A little note on shopping:  for shoes, they have them on display in windows and you basically go in the store and show an attendant which one you like.

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