When Andrew and I travel, we’ll start our day late, see or do 1-2 things, and then rest and relax at the hotel. My parents however, are intense travelers. Just this year, they’ve been to Scotland, Iceland, Hong Kong, China, Italy, and France. They start as early as possible, make and eat breakfast, go to 2 museums in the morning, eat lunch, then go on a 4-hour walking tour, shop at lots of grocery stores, and eat dinner before heading back to plan for the next day. They do not nap… at all. To my parents, vacations are not meant for rest, they are meant to be as active as possible, see as much as possible, learn as much as possible, and experience as much as possible.
So when Andrew and I joined them (and Genny’s parents) for 6 days of their Italy & France trip, we averaged walking 8-9 miles per day.
Andrew and I arrived in Florence in the afternoon. After dropping off our luggage and eating a pizza, we immediately headed out to the Uffizi Gallery. Here are some of the famous pieces we saw.
After walking around the city a bit more, for dinner, we went to a place to get Florentine steaks cause that’s what you’re supposed to eat in Florence. It was alright. I was not that impressed.
The next day, we left our Airbnb before 8am because we had timed tickets to enter Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michaelangelo’s David. Usually, I’m not very impressed by statues, but seeing David in real life is pretty amazing. Pictures do not do justice to show how massive and specific it is. Galleria dell’Accademia is much smaller in comparison to Uffizi, but there is a Museum of Musical Instruments with a really cool Stradivari viola and the first upright piano.
There was more walking before we grabbed a quick to-go lunch before our 5 hour walking tour of Florence.
We walked all over, but the best part was the views from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Next to our Airbnb was a Venchi shop so after dinner, we had to stop there for chocolate hazelnut gelato because everything was gold and shiny. The wall was actually a chocolate waterfall. It was delicious.
The next day, we took the train to head to Cinque Terre. On our way, we made a quick stop in Pisa for lunch and to take embarrassing pictures of us trying to hold up the tower.
After about an hour on the train, we arrived into Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera coast. Cinque Terre literally means Five Lands, referring to 5 seaside villages. Each of the towns are unique on its own, but so beautiful with colorful houses built on the rugged mountain. My dad, the outdoor educator was most excited for this part of the trip because you can hike from town to town, along steep terraces and vineyards with amazing views of the water (there are very few roads). If any of you readers are planning a trip to Cinque Terre, make sure you book a room close to the train station. You do not want to be bringing luggage up those hills.
We arrived to our apartment in Vernazza in the late afternoon. My dad wanted to do a hike before dinner. Thankfully, we made an early restaurant reservation so we couldn’t do a proper hike. Instead, we found a lookout for a great view of Vernazza.
For dinner, we went to Trattoria da Sandro. for some traditional Vernazzan food. Everything was delicious and I highly recommend this place. If you’re ever in Cinque Terre (Vernazza), make sure you order ravioli with walnut sauce (so good!), trofie pesto (it’s pesto pasta, but trofie is a different type of pasta and their pesto is also very different than your normal pesto), and stuffed mussels.
Of course we got gelato afterwards.
The next day, we got up early and we took the train to Riomaggiore.
Then, we took the train to Manarola, one of the more popular towns.
From Manarola, we took a shuttle bus up the hill to begin our hike where we hiked to Corniglia and had lunch.
From Corniglia, you can take the train back to Vernazza, but my parents wanted to hike it…. So we did.
In total, I walked 8.9 miles (24,401 steps) and climbed 82 floors (at least according to my phone) that day.
My dad wanted to keep going, but I said no. We took the train to visit the final village, Monterosso, where we had dinner.
If you visit Cinque Terre, you should buy a Cinque Terre Card so you can use the shuttle busses, trails, and train (for the whole day!). It’s € 7.50 for a 1-day card.
The next morning, we got up SUPER early to catch our 6am train to Milan.
When we got to Milan, we met Bo, my Auntie Verna’s college roommate who hosted and took us around. After dropping off our luggage, we got back on the train to visit Lake Como.
To be honest, I’ve never actually heard of it before, but it’s a really beautiful place that I would highly recommend people to visit. From Milan, it takes about an hour to get there by train. Lake Como is located in Northern Italy, close to the Switzerland border. This is where the rich Italians have their summer homes. There are towns on the lake that are so cute and charming. I can definitely see how it can be a very relaxing getaway. One of the towns is called Bellagio, which probably inspired the name of the Las Vegas hotel. Oh, and George Clooney owns a home on Lake Como.
We took a ferry from Verrena to Menaggio. We enjoyed a lunch by the water and got to walk around the town and look into all the cute shops. We didn’t have the much time otherwise we may have been able to see more.
For dinner, our lovely host Bo made us the most delicious Italian dinner. Andrew ate A LOT.
The next day, we got to sleep in before heading out. Bo drove us to the city centre (and Andrew hid in the trunk!) and we got to see the main attractions of Milan. We started at the Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace), formerly the location of the city gate and walked through Sempione Park (their version of Central Park). On the other end of the Park is Sforza Castle. It’s now a museum, but we didn’t have time to go in.
Last but not least, we had to see the Milan Cathedral, the third largest church in the world. We didn’t go inside (no time!), but it is very impressive. Insider Note: There is a mall next to the church. There is a restaurant on top. From there, you can see the roof of the church.
For lunch, Bo took us to an amazing restaurant a little bit outside of the city centre, where the locals go called Tagiura. If you want to experience an authentic Milanese lunch (where you feel like you’re eating an Italian grandma’s homecooking), this is the place to be. The food came out fast, but everything I ate there was DELICIOUS. The best part though is that it’s super affordable. They also have a table full of freshly made desserts just waiting to be eaten. We tried the panna cotta and it was freaking amazing.
After lunch, Andrew and I had to head to the airport for our flight back to Edinburgh.
In case anybody is wanting to visit Florence and Milan on a small budget (and have a bit of time), we flew RyanAir into the smaller airports outside of the city (Bologna & Bergamo) and were able to take very convenient, direct busses from the airport straight into or out of the city. We spent $67 USD per person, roundtrip from Edinburgh.
Anyways, I hope you didn’t get tired from reading this blog post. We definitely had a really great time and ate way too much good food. Oh, and if you’re wondering, Italy is definitely my favorite European country to visit.