By: Danielle Moore
For my 30th birthday, my boyfriend and I decided to take a romantic trip to Italy. We set off for amazing tri-city vacation to Milan, Rome and Florence. Of course we saw the Coliseum, the Duomo Cathedral and all of the other major tourist attractions, but no one ever talks about how amazing the pasta is and the best ways to get there!
Good Ol’ Public Transportation
Always, always, read the local news prior to traveling abroad. When we arrived in Milan at 7:45am, after a 7+ hour plane ride, how were we supposed to know that there was a city-wide taxi strike?! After standing at a taxi stand for 30 minutes, with 5 other couples, we noticed that no taxis had circled the promenade. We went back into the airport and were told to take a bus to the Central Station in Milan.
In most train stations in Italy, there are “helpers” who will attempt to assist you in purchasing your ticket. The good thing about these “helpers” is that they generally know what they’re talking about. As long as you have an address, they can show you how to get the city. They’ll ask for a tip, so we gave them a couple Euros, but they do not work for the train station, so you should be careful and mindful of your belongings when they are around.
After a train, two buses and the help of a Good Samaritan who drove us in his Fiat, 6 hours later we arrived at our hotel. I can’t say enough about the Italian people. Enrique, Adam and I thank you!
Despite our exhaustive conquest to our hotel, in 90+ degree heat and humidity that would melt leather, it was an adventure. The next morning, the taxis were off strike and we were able to get a ride back to the Milan Central Station.
I highly recommend purchasing a EuroRail Pass prior to your trip. It came in handy as we city-hopped from Milan, to Florence, to Rome and then back to Milan. The normal per person price for a pass purchased at the train station was 116 Euros for a one-way pass. EuroRail Pass was well worth the price!
The metro system is also a great way to get around. Get a map from your hotel, and again, it’s perfectly normal to ask a random Italian for assistance. Most of them speak enough English to get by. Hand signals and gestures work well too! Italians are extremely warm and welcoming people and we never felt ashamed to ask for directions, restaurant recommendations and any other general questions. Just expect the “helpers” at the train station to ask for a tip!
Traveling Outside the City
If you’re adventurous like us, travel outside the city walls into the locals’ territory. It’s metro accessible and some of the liveliest bars are located in an alley near the EuroStars Roma Aetna Hotel. Converse with local musicians, upcoming fashion designers, and bar owners over a nice glass of red wine.
Viddles and Libations
The best restaurants can be found on the cobble-stoned side streets in the city centers. Actually, the best restaurants can be found anywhere! The food is awesome, as long as you like pasta and wine. In the city centers in Milan, Florence, and Rome, just walk by the Gucci’s, Pradas, Louis Vuittons, and turn the corner, walk a little more, and then turn the corner again, and you will find the most quaint wine bars and restaurants. Outdoor seating is a must!
In Milan, you HAVE to try the lobster linguine, but go near the Duomo in the Quadrilatero D’Oro. It was absolutely amazing. To compliment the meal we had the Brunello di Montalcino, a full-bodied red wine, home-grown in Italy.
Restaurants are lined up all along the side streets with outdoor seating reserved in some empty street parking spaces. If you’re a carnivore like me, eat at Armando and try their T-bone steak and fried vegetables. Be sure to ask for medium temperature as rare is the Tuscany way. And when I say rare, I mean you can still see the cow’s heartbeat! We drank different years and classes of Chianti as it’s a Tuscan wine and we found that Chianti Classico Castello di Verrazzano pairs nicely with almost any kind of entree.
Between the food, the raw sugar mojitos served at Modo’s, wine bars, and small town atmosphere, Florence was by far our favorite city!
There’s so much to say about Rome, and so much to do. At first glance, you feel like you’re in an inner city in the U.S. Once you pass the littered, urine-infested streets on the outskirts of the city, the center city is a wonderful experience and has everything you’d expect of Italy.
Unfortunately for us it rained, at least a portion of the day, everyday we were in Rome. On rainy days, it’s perfectly normal to gather in a café and sip on cappuccinos and eat scones.
Buy an umbrella from the “helpers” that seemingly pop out of every crevice in the city when it rains, and then magically disappear as soon as the sun returns. A shop owner recommended La Vie, a cozy café for us to take cover until the rain stopped. La Vie, not only offers the best cappuccino that I’ve ever had, but the atmosphere is inviting and the couches are so comfortable that you’ll never want to leave.
Our tri-city tour was by far one of the greatest trips I’ve taken. I can’t wait to return and explore more of Italy!