It’s easy for Brits to enjoy a long weekend in Italy. You can get return flights for less than £100 and it’s only two hours away. Perfect. I’ve spent about three months in Italy in all, over five years, with the longest stint being a month and the shortest just a few days.
I love Italy – not everywhere I’ve visited as you’ll see – but in general I’m sucked in by the food, architecture, drink, outdoors lifestyle and cute little towns and villages surrounding the lakes. Not showing off or owt but I’ve been to:
- Lake Como
- Lake Garda
- Cinque Terre
Where to go and what to do
If I had to narrow it down to my top 5 places the list would read like this:
- Lake Garda
- Cinque Terre
And the least?
The others float somewhere in between.
The worst places in Italy (IMHO)
Milan was a super flashy city, which apart from the incredible Milan Cathedral I couldn’t really see much justification for. Everyone just seemed to wander about looking skinny and wearing big sunglasses while shopping, apart from the sunglasses part I’m not really into any of that. I was there for three days and wasn’t impressed.
And the other one on the not impressed list would be Naples. It was a shit hole, to put it bluntly. My friend got beaten up for no reason on some church steps and had to be rescued by the local taxi drivers. Added to that there was rubbish and dirt everywhere. We went to see Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii and then left asap.
The best places in Italy
Lake Garda was stunning. I stayed in Bardolino for the Wine Festival and went on bike rides round the lake to see more of the area. It was great value for money, lots going on and loads of outdoorsy things to do. I had a brilliant time in my week round Lake Garda exploring the cute little towns and villages surrounding it.
The Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, despite the rain when I was there. You can hike between the five villages around the cliff face stopping off for wine and anchovies at every one. Each of the villages has its own character and delicacies; this is somewhere I’d definitely go back to.
I’d never even heard of Mantova / Mantua before but I was invited to check out the Beatilla Farm Resort (which was great). It seemed like the perfect way to extend my time round Lake Garda as it was only an hour away. Mantova is a bustling town, come market day, but the rest of the week there’s enough people for atmosphere but it’s not overcrowded like the big Italian cities. The lake is beautiful, the shops boutique and the bars and restaurants flit between classic Italian and hipster Italia. It’s also just an hour from Verona.
Ah sweet Verona. I stood on Juliet’s balcony, ate pizza in the main square, and gorged on gelato. And then we were late for the train and had to run with it all in our bellies. Definitely the most underrated city in Italy, that I’ve seen anyway.
Florence has the most incredible duomo, and ponte vecchio. There were so many museums too – the Uffizi was awesome. I also had the most incredible pistachio gelato here that I’ve remembered for the next 7 years of my life.
The Italian cities in between
Rome of course has a crazy amount of attractions to enjoy. I’ll never forget seeing the Trevi Fountain for the first time. And as I wandered around the ruins at night it was as if I’d gone back in time.
Some people say Venice is overrated. I was meant to stay for three days and ended up there for seven so you can tell what I thought. Just walking the labyrinthine streets and getting lost at every turn to find a new marvel was an unforgettable experience.
Lake Como was difficult – to enjoy it as much as possible we needed a car, which was pretty scary to drive with those Italian drivers on the cliff face roads. It was SO expensive too. The views from the top were fantastic but I had to close my eyes on the drive back down. I wasn’t the one driving.
I was pretty disappointed by Pisa, in fact, we questioned whether it was actually the famous tower when we there. It seemed so small compared to the photos. Worth a day trip from Florence though and pretty easy on the train too.
And finally, down south you can explore the town of Alberobello with it’s coned roof trulli houses. Make the most of the cheap prices and beautiful countryside down in Puglia. As yet it’s the most undeveloped part of Italy.
Getting around Italy
There’s no reason why you can’t see a few places in Italy if you have a week or longer – it’s so easy to get around.
The trains in Italy are simple to use. You’ll find the electronic board in the main hall, just like in England, and the individual train destinations are usually listed just outside the steps up to the entrance too. Remember that you need to validate your ticket on the yellow machine before you get on the train or it’s as if you never bought one.
Getting an overnight train was a fun experience too. I took one from Rome down to Alborebello and it was like an olde Harry Potter style train where we had to face each other and sit in a red leather carriage. Loved it.
A few tips on travelling Italy
Take every opportunity to eat all you can in Italy. I’ve never had such an incredible plate as the gnocchi, mushroom and truffle oil I tried in Sirmione round Lake Garda. Right now I feel like I’d go back just for that.
Go to Italy and you’ll need to get in touch with the ‘aperitif’. Popular aperitifs in Italy include Aperol, Campari and Vermouth and they’re knocked back just before dinner. The usual social thing is to meet your friends for an aperitif and then go out for a meal. They’re served with a few tapas so if you’re feeling a bit skint you can survive on the crisps and nuts that come with the aperitifs, like I did.
And of course, Prosecco goes down nicely whatever time of the day it is.
Best time to go
I’ve been to Italy in May, September and October in multiple years and have experienced sun, heat, cold and rain. If you want guaranteed sun obviously it’s best to go from June to September, but of course that’s when everyone else is there too.
Got any plans for Italy? If ever you need any help on planning your trip, give me a shout!
Join 60,000 monthly readers with my monthly update!