Impromptu Italian Adventure

{Streets of Venice}

Last February I was fortunate enough to take an impromptu trip to Italy with Rachel, one of my best friends from college. We had such a great time! Italy is an extremely small country compared to the United States, so we were able to see quite a bit for only being there a week. Here are some of my tips, tricks, and must-dos:

TRAVEL TIP :: Subscribe to airline alerts via their individual websites. The airline will send you a weekly email that outlines specials that are running. Most of the time they’re pretty small…a couple dollars here, a couple dollars there…but every once in a while they drop a big one. Such was the case for my impromptu trip to Italy. Emirates Airlines was having a special to fly from NYC to Milan for..brace yourselves..$400 roundtrip!! Sold. 

TRAVEL TIP :: Being flexible pays off. I like to build up my travel savings account (yes..I have a separate savings account just for travel) and then sit on it a while before booking a trip. That way if I find an amazing deal (like the Italy flight special) I’m ready to take action immediately. Here’s my timeline for Italy — 

Found the flight special :: Wednesday

Booked my flight :: Thursday

Left the country :: Monday

Zach, a former 1canoe2er, was there when I booked my flight only 4 days out. To put it in his words, it was the biggest YOLO moment I’ve ever had.

PLACES TO SEE {THE COLOSSEUM} :: Jaw-dropping! I would 150% recommend spending the extra money to go to the lower level where you can walk the same corridors that gladiators and beasts alike walked hundreds of years ago. Down there you can also see the “elevators” that were used to release the animals into the arena. Ultra cool!

RANT :: I promise this will be the only rant. Please…make it a priority to put the phone down every once in a while. I was in Rome during the height of the selfie stick movement and to be honest, it left me feeling a little sad. I’m confident when I say that 95% of the people I saw on the street had selfie sticks glued to their outstretched hands. Rome is basically one giant museum without a ceiling. There is a new discovery around every corner. Discoveries that you are most likely paying hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in travel costs to see…why pay all of that hard-earned money just to look through a lens!? I want to be present in the details, the weather, the crowds of people around or lack there of — being mindful in that moment is going to engrain that image in our minds and give a crisp recollection of details in a way that a photograph will never be able to do. The moment is not robbing us of a photo op, our photo op is robbing us of truly experiencing the thing we traveled thousands of miles to experience.

PLACES TO SEE {VATICAN CITY} :: What a beautiful place. Rome surrounds Vatican City, which is actually its own city-state. Not only is it headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and home to the pope, its walls house some of the world’s most famous artwork. Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel alone is enough to make me want to go back again and again.

NOMS :: They say when you’re in Rome you should do as the Romans do. Well, Romans eat super delicious food. So we ate duper delicious food! And drank our weight in wine and Lemonchello… :) Unlike the precedent that fast-food has set in America, Italians take their time with meals, so Rachel and I followed their lead. The average dinner probably took us on average 3 or so hours to complete. The waiters in Italy expect your meal to take a long time and respect your privacy. They don’t hound you like American waiters do. In fact, it was hard at times to get the waiter’s attention in order to bring the check. Tipping isn’t necessary in Italy, but Rachel and I usually included a small tip (10 euro) with our long meals because not tipping felt strange. This was definitely more for our own comfort than their expectations. 

TRAVEL TIP :: I heard that renting a car in Italy was a little intimidating, so Rachel and I booked train tickets from one city to the next. We bought our tickets in advance and used a kiosk to print the physical tickets once we were at the station. The trains were was easy, comfortable and cheaper than renting a car would have been. Plus we didn’t have the extra stress of navigating. Italian streets didn’t seem to follow the same grid pattern that many of our cities do, so I was relieved not to have to navigate. Once we were in the city, we simply walked everywhere we wanted to go or jumped on a bus.

TRAVEL TIP :: Hostels are great! A lock on your suitcase is always a good idea, especially if you don’t have a private room. They will supply towels but don’t forget about footwear. Rachel and I tied doggy bags on our feet because we both forgot about shower shoes!

PLACES TO SEE {DUOMO} :: Situated inside the Florence Cathedral, the Duomo is a must-do! Visitors can climb up to the top of the dome to be greeted by an amazing view of the city. The climb involves steep steps and parts of the stairwell are incredibly tight, so if you’re claustrophobic at all, I would consider sticking to the ground floor.

PLACES TO SEE {ACCADEMIA + UFFIZI} :: Beautiful museums! The Accademia Gallery is most widely known as the home to Michelangelo’s David and was the smaller of the two. Uffizi Gallery is huuuge but worth it. My favorite painting was Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Being an art major in college, I felt like I spotted a celebrity when I saw it on the wall!

NOMS :: Get the steak! Florence is known for its steak and for darn good reason. 

TRAVEL TIP :: Transportation in this city is so fun!! The street are made of water (obviously) so there are water buses and water taxis to get you around. The taxis are super pricey, so I’d recommend taking the bus system. It takes a little longer because you have to dock up at every stop, but it’s fairly easy to navigate and much cheaper. Clothes that layer are a great idea in this city. Even when it’s warm on land, the water buses are a bit chilly when they get moving!

PLACES TO SEE {THE STREETS} :: We didn’t have a destination in Venice…Venice was our destination! Simply walking the sidewalks made for the perfect day. Because the large streets are water, the alleys are the way to get around on foot.

TRAVEL TIP :: Rachel and I had an experience in Venice where the hostel location we booked wasn’t the same location where we stayed. I think the address that we had was only the office location so then we had to walk to a second address to actually settle in and sleep. The man running the hostel couldn’t give us the address for some reason…so the entire exchange felt shady. While it all turned out perfectly okay, we felt extremely uncomfortable moving to a second location where no one back home would know where we were! I ended up turning on my cell service to take a picture of the location on Maps and I texted it back to my family. From now on I will be sure to ask if the room is on the same property of the address listed with the hostel information. Better safe than sorry.

If you’re planning a trip to Italy — have so much fun!! Comment with any questions and I’d be happy to chat with you!

:: Haley ::

P.S. If you’re a reader like me, you may be interested in one of my favorite travel books — Off Track Planet’s Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy, and Broke. Check it out!


I’m happy to hear someone else is on the same page with smart phones! They are wonderful in so many ways…but seeing all of those selfie sticks just made my stomach turn :( I’ve experimented with a couple different notebooks and now I have a few favorites. The small one in the photo is a small Moleskin and it’s GREAT! I love the blank pages but the biggest seller is that it lays flat. That’s my biggest pet peeve with notebooks. My other go-to are Field Notes. They’re small, super easy to carry in a purse or backpack and they lay flat. I get the version with the dot grid on the pages so I have some guides if I want to write but I also don’t feel constricted by lines if I want to sketch!

Haley June 13, 2016

2 friends and I did this same trip, but in reverse and with a couple days in Cinque Terre. The memories you brought flooding back are amazing. It was over a decade ago and I’m SO glad we didn’t have smart phones because you’re right, there is a treasure and gem around every corner and I wouldn’t want to miss a moment. What notebooks do you use for your travels? I love the small, flat-open book pictured at the top of your post.

Carrie May 31, 2016

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