“A 2 week vacation in Europe!!!” Anyone who heard that invoked memories of the Swiss Alps, the Eiffel Tower, the Scottish moors and Roman history. Well that’s what a typical European holiday from India generally tends to cover. But when we told our friends/ family that we were planning to spend the entire 2 weeks in Italy, they thought we had lost the plot! We heard concerned questions from family like “are you planning to apply for Italian citizenship“, questions from coworkers like “are you guys hired to conduct some research in Italy”, from friends like “are there even things to see / places to visit for so many days” and so on and so forth.
Did raise some doubts but well we nonetheless went ahead and spent 18 days in this beautiful country. And guess what – we could have spent additional 2 weeks and still have enough things to do and see!
Best time to visit
Italy does not experience harsh winters unlike most European countries. If you still don’t want to brave the winter, spring and autumn would be the perfect time to visit. You are guaranteed fewer tourists – it is no fun walking to Spanish steps and almost finding no space to sit; or pushing and shoving through narrow lanes to get to the beach at Positano.
The downside to traveling during the shoulder months is that the weather could be unpredictable. The water at the beach would still be cold so unless you are brave enough to jump in freezing water, you cannot really enjoy swimming azure water. Also, you may need to carry sweaters and jackets – in some places, the weather dropped to 3 degrees Celsius in mid-April. But hey, I will take 3 degrees over 30 degrees!
Drive or take the public transport
Deciding to drive versus taking public transportation more or less comes to down to your affinity for driving. Public transport in Italy is very good, comprehensive and cost effective. But having a car at your disposal has its own advantages – you don’t have to drag large suitcases from train stations to the hotels; plus it provides the flexibility of stopping by wherever you want and venturing to places out of the ordinary. Having said that, road trip through Italy comes with its set of problems – choice of hotels is limited (unless you are willing to pay € 15-20 per night in each city for parking), parking is a bit difficult to find in big cities, gas is quite expensive (approximately € 1.35 – € 1.5 per litre for diesel and € 1.5 – € 1.8 per litre for petrol) and the tolls are very high (compared to other countries like the USA).
For us, the pros outweighed the cons and we decided to drive around the whole country instead of taking the trains especially because we love road trips and grab any opportunity for the same with two hands!
Day by day itinerary
Below is the complete itinerary of our trip. The details for each location can be found under their own separate pages.
Days 1, 2 and 3 – Lake Como region
Days 4 and 5 – Cinque Terre
Day 6 – Florence
Days 7, 8, 9 – Tuscany
Day 10 – Pompeii
Days 11, 12, 13 and 14 – Amalfi Coast
Days 15, 16 and 17 – Rome
We opted to skip Venice since we wanted to spend more time in Tuscany and Amalfi. Dolomites – which is approximately 4 hours from Milan is also a beautiful place to visit but it looked similar to the Austrian Alps, where we had recently visited, and hence we decided to skip it.
One other region we wanted to cover but could not due to lack of time was Puglia. Time permitting, the Italian towns of Bari, Alberobello, Ostuni, Monopoli are a must see.
- Book flight tickets in advance – our return flight tickets from Mumbai barely cost € 500 per person.
- Car rental for 17 days worked out to approximately € 550. For the entire trip, we ended up paying € 200 on gas and € 80 on tolls.
- If you intend to do any guided tours (specially in Rome and Florence), book in advance – if you are travelling in the peak season, the tickets could be sold out a whole month in advance!
- We bought a local SIM card at Malpensa airport in Milan and it cost us € 45 for 2 sim cards with 5 GB data each and 500 minutes free local and international.
- While credit cards are widely accepted in big cities, mom and pop shops, restaurants (specially in smaller cities) only accept cash. As a general rule of thumb, keep a few euros in cash wherever you go.
- In smaller towns, not everyone speaks English, so learn a few basic Italian words or download this app -iTranslate (the basic version of this app is free). This app was a savior on our trip.
- During the shoulder months, weather can be unpredictable, so carry plenty of layers and an umbrella in tow. Our first and last week in Italy we experienced weather of 18-25 degrees Celsius, whereas the middle week, it dropped to 3-10 degrees Celsius.
- If you intend to travel by bus, you cannot buy your bus fare on board the bus! You must purchase them at a Tabacchi, which is a local convenience store.
- In general, food is not very expensive in Italy. An espresso will cost you around € 0.80 while a cappuccino will cost you € 1.2. Needless to say, the prices are almost 50% higher at the main tourist spots. However, most Italian eateries have a cover charge ranging from € 1 – € 3 per person. If you decide to stand, you usually order from the cashier, who will give you a receipt that you present to the bartender for the drink/food, although in smaller bars you may be able to order first and pay when you leave.
- A pizza will cost you € 4 – € 10, pastas from € 8 – € 25. For some reason, soups are relatively expensive and cost about € 8- € 10!
- Lastly, if you try to tick everything off your bucket list, you will most likely be running from one place to another without really enjoying the place. Just go with the flow and you always need a reason to go back some day so don’t worry about seeing and doing everything on your trip.
*All prices mentioned are as of April 2017.