Congratulazioni! You just booked your first trip to Italy! How exciting. What’s next? Don’t forget your masks (KN95/FFP2) and your vaccine card, because yes, covid still exists in Italy. Double check your baggage beforehand, 15lbs for a carry on and 50lbs for a checked bag (mybaggage). Because trust me, you do not want to be in the airport fiddling around with your suitcases. While sitting in the airport waiting 2 hours for your flight, you can check the money conversion rates and do some mental math and learn military time. It’s super easy once you get the hang of it. Try to sleep on the plane, you will be jetlagged, and it will make the ride easier. Welcome to Italy!
So, you survived the flight and feel super jetlagged. The first day in Prato, take it easy and explore the town. Enjoy a nice croissant and Capuchino at Mangolfi, while looking at the beautiful San Francesco church. It was built in 1331 and was one of the first buildings in Prato built of brickwork instead of stone (tripadvisor). Next, you can visit the textile museum and library. Prato is very famous for their textiles. The library holds loads of Tuscany history(trip). After that, visit the Castello dell ’Imperatore. This castle was built for the medieval emperor and King Sicily Fredrick II and remains unfinished (trip). Lastly, pay attention to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This cathedral is Roman catholic and was the seat of the Bishop of Prato from 1954 (trip).
Now that you’ve learned about the city of Prato, it’s time to brave the train and take it to Florence. Don’t forget your masks! Once at the train station, you can either get a ticket on your phone, or purchase a paper one and stamp it at the green kiosk. Your first stop in Florence is the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (planetware). You are going to want to spend hours looking at it. Right behind it is the Duomo, you can climb all 463 stairs if you’d like, the view is amazing. It took 140 years to build (planet). Next, you can visit the Leonardo interactive museum, which is dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci and has been open for 20 years (leonardo). Lastly, you should stop by the Pitti Palace. This Palace was purchased in 1550 and was chosen by Cosimo l de’Medici and his wife Eleanor of Toledo as the new Grand Dual Residence (uffizi).
If you are still interested in learning about Florence history, and are able, I highly recommend touring the Medici Villa. The Medici family story began in the 12th century when they emigrated to Florence from the Tuscan village of Cafaggiolo. They rose to power through banking. Florence is highly known for their banks. Two fun facts about the Medici family: they adopted Michelangelo, and they had part in inventing gelato! A little history of the Villa is that the land was originally acquired by Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1473. Construction began in 1485, and was decorated in 1515. Medici Grand Duke Francesco I and Bianca Cappello both died hours apart in 1587. When Florence became the capital of Unified Italy in 1865, the Savoia family took control. In 1917, the family donated the villa to the state, and it became a museum in 1980 (villegiardinimedicei).
You simply cannot go to Italy and not spend a day or two in Rome. There’s just too much to see and so much history. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and bring a strong sunscreen! Once you get off the train, make a beeline to the Colosseum. You will be blown away by how magnificent it is. After getting the perfect picture, head over to the center of the city to the Forum. The Forum was the location for all religious, political, and social activities. It even dates back to 500 B.C. (parcocolosseo). After taking in the views, head over to the Trevi Fountain. You can throw in one coin to return to Rome, two for finding love, and three for finding love and staying in Rome. But down forget to turn around throw it over your left shoulder, because the right is bad luck (fodors)! Now, take out your scarf and head over the the Pantheon. It is free and the line goes quick. There is only one source of light and it is through one hole on the ceiling. If you still have energy after a long day of exploring, try to climb up all 135 steps on the Spanish Steps.
While you’re in Rome, you might as well head over to Pompeii. It is not just a Bastille song. The city was destroyed in 79 CE when the volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted. The Volcano covered at least 19 feet (6 metres) of the city in ash and other volcanic debris. The debris was able to preserve the city before it was discovered in the late 16th century (pompeionline). You are able to visit the historical cite for €15.00. There, you can see what is left of the Amphitheatre of Pompeii. It is one of the oldest surviving Roman amphitheatres. Scientists were able find 6 bodies (pompeiisites). You can also see several buildings including mansions, restaurants, and gladiator barracks.
When talking about the history of Italy, you can’t leave out wine! Minetto is the home of the enormous Prosecco factory, and is located in northern Italy, just an hour outside Venice. Prosecco is a sparkling white wine (visit). The picture on the left is one of the biggest tanks the factory has. It contains 1,200 hl, which translates to 120,000,000 ml. One bottle of wine is 750 ml, so this tank contains 160,000 bottles of wine, crazy right. Another interesting fun fact is that a cork can reach a speed of 25mph, so be careful who you open the bottle around (gastronomica). Prosecco is dated back to 200BC, and was officially invented in 1948 by Harry’s Bar in Venice, and was designed as a drink for Bridal showers (vinepair).
After drinking the best Prosecco ever, shoot over to Venice. It is BEAUTIFUL. Venice is full of history and food and beautiful scenery. Fun fact, Venice is built on wood (the local). Because of the rising water, the land is very muddy and swampy. The locals had to drain the canal, and inserted wooden steaks made from pine and wooden platforms on top. Venice is known as the “floating city.” It has been sinking since 1973. The “average estimates are that the city is sinking by 1-2mm every year” (the local). Because of its location near the water, Venice is known for its seafood (Eataly). Do not forget to try some salmon pasta or cod before you head out!
If you have the time, and the money, it is worth flying to Paris for the night. It is possible to do Paris in a day, just make sure you bring comfortable shoes! Staying outside of the city center is the best option, especially because the subway system is so easy. Be sure to review the zones beforehand so you do not get locked in the subway trying to catch your plane like me. Start off at the giant Arc, then shoot over to the Eiffel tower to get the perfect picture. On your way to the Louvre, look for the thinker statue. You can view it from the street without paying for a museum ticket. Finish the day at Notre-Dame and take the B train right to the airport. Do not forget to try some crepes and beignets before you leave!
Biscotti has deep roots in Tuscany. The first biscotti, often referred to as Biscotti di Prato, were created in 14th-century Tuscany in the city of Prato and were made from almonds, which were abundant in the region. Because the second baking drew moisture out of the biscuit, it rendered the biscotti hard, sturdy and, importantly, resistant to mold (NPR). Because biscotti is so hard, it is usually dipped in coffee or tea to soften it. The process is very easy. Only 5 simple ingredients are used: eggs, flour, lemon, sugar, and almonds. A little tip is if using 24 eggs for example, separate 12 eggs, toss the whites, and mix the remaining whole 12 eggs with the yolk.
Before making the journey home, head over to Lucca. It is bursting with history. Lucca contains massive walls to protect itself from cannons. These walls are so big that restaurants and parks can fit on top! I highly recommend letting your adventure tourist through and renting a bike and biking on the wall. 10/10 recommend. It is a leisurely ride, and it feels so nice to have a breeze on a hot summer’s day. Another fun fact, Lucca is the “second largest Italian city state (after Venice) with a republican constitution to remain independent over the centuries” (dove). After you finish your bike tour, look at the old amphitheater and some churches. They are magnificent.
You survived your tour of Italy! It is normal to feel homesick and crave a burger and fries because I am too. Before going home, do not forget to check the covid testing rules. As of June 10th, you do not need a test to return to the states. Now, the fun part beings with trying to shove everything into your suitcase with buying lots of souvenirs. Do not forget the 50lb limit for checked luggage and 15lb limit for carry-ons! I would love to stay and chat, but I must do laundry and pack. Have a safe flight home. Ciao!