Seven days in Italy: A quick guide to the European nation

  • Rukmini Chopra, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 03, 2016 12:13 IST
The Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, which is a medieval arch bridge over the Arno river, makes for a breathtaking sight at night. (Shutterstock)

From the Roman tragedies of Julius Caesar or Anthony and Cleopatra to Hollywood hits such as Roman Holiday (1953), Life Is Beautiful (1997) and Angels And Demons (2009), Italy has been romanticised by creative professionals the world over. Naturally, Italy ranked high on our travel wish list. After much online research and discussions with friends who had already visited the European country, we zeroed in on Rome, Florence and Venice for a seven-day trip to Italy.

But when we first set foot in Rome, We couldn’t help but feel that “Rome is a fancier version of south Mumbai.” However, the first impression didn’t last long. With architectural marvels at every corner and picturesque views, Italy soon grew on us. We strolled down bridges, feasted on authentic Italian cuisine and shopped to our heart’s content across Venice, Rome and Florence. Here’s a quick guide to a week in Italy if you are planning a trip to the country.

Roman holiday

The Colosseum is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. Two-thirds of the original structure is currently in ruins. (Getty Images)

On our way to the hotel, we spotted several pizza joints that fuelled our appetite for “authentic Italian cuisine”. We did indulge in Pizzas, especially the Margarita variant (cheese and tomato sauce). After satiating the hunger pangs, we found ourselves in the sea of visitors queued up to enter The Colosseum. Built in 70 AD, it was quite overwhelming to believe that this 48m high oval amphitheatre, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was erected primarily for contests between gladiators and animal fights. “The gladiators used to remain underground before they made their entry for combat,” narrated our tour guide. While two-thirds of the original structure is currently in ruins, the remnant of this architectural masterpiece is still one of the most-visited tourist attractions of the country.

Read: Top destinations for a European holiday that ain’t Paris, London or Rome

Hop, skip and jump from The Colosseum to reach The Roman Forum, and check out some more ancient ruins. The vast rectangular area was once used as the senate house and town hall. Take a stroll down the area, and you will see temples of Roman Gods such as Janus, Venus and Titus.

They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” And experiencing the nightlife is one of the activities. We explored the colourful alleys of Trastevere, and finally hit the streets near river Tiber, that comes alive at night. Packed with cafés and bars, the street buzzes with buskers till the wee hours of the morning.

Lost in Florence

After a busy couple of days in Rome, we took a three-hour bus ride to reach Florence for some calm. More than anything else, we enjoyed the breathtaking views of this quaint city and its Renaissance art. We walked to Ponte Vecchio, a medieval arch bridge over river Arno. This bridge makes for a picturesque sight post sunset when it is lit up by numerous lamps on either sides of the pathway.

While in Florence, we decided to tick off the Giardino delle rose or The Rose Garden on our check list. It took us a 15-minute bus ride and a 10-minute uphill climb to reach the popular garden, which is situated atop a hill, overlooking the city. It is advisable to carry some snacks and wine as you can sit at the garden for hours to enjoy the beautiful sunset.

One of the most happening places in Florence is the Piazza della Republica, an open area filled with cafés, restaurants and gelato parlours. We also enjoyed performances by jazz bands stationed at the joints here.

Whatever floats your boat

The beautiful city of Venice, that is popular for its boat and Gondola rides. (Shutterstock)

The most convenient way to get to Venice from Florence is a two-hour train journey. With multiple canals and minimal land, Venice has an endearing old world charm to it. We had a great time bargaining at the local leather market and other shopping hubs in Mercerie and San Marco. Hollywood and Bollywood have painted innumerable images of Venice and its gondola rides. And the reality doesn’t disappoint one bit. However, a 30-minute ride costs around 70-80 euros (approximately `5,600) making a huge hole in the pocket. Perhaps, you would want to maintain a separate fund for this breathtaking ride.

Read: From Vienna to Rome: Here’s how you backpack across Europe on a budget

The best Italian food in Italy can be found in Florence.A must visit here,is the popular sandwich joint All’ Antico Vinaio( at Via de Meri), which is a popular for its ham sandwiches. Those who wish to stick to Indian food can relish their taste buds at Al Noor( at Via del Ponte alle Mosse) a Pakistani joint offering tasty Paneer and Murg dishes. When in Venice, make sure to explore the popular leather shops at the San Lorenzo market. For luxury shopping, you can explore Via Tournabouni, comprising of high end brands. The river Tiber in Rome is a must visit, for one to explore the city’s nightlife and catch interesting acts such as belly dancing, fire stunts by street performers.

Keep in mind:

- Walking is the most feasible way to roam around the neighbourhoods. However, to cover longer distances, opt for local buses and underground trains. Avoid cab services, as they are expensive.

-Foodies can try ham sandwiches at All Antico Vinaio, a popular sandwich joint in Via de Meri, Florence.

-It’s advisable to look for accommodation on AirBnB, since hotel bookings in the heart of the cities can be extremely expensive.

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