Photoblog – mini tour of Italy with travel tips!Posted on: Aug 28, 2018
This August, the Other Half and I escaped the baking hot sun of the UK for the baking hot sun of Italy. Who’d have thought a British summer would have prepared us so well for the soaring temperatures of southern Europe?
We were heading off to a borgo in the rolling Tuscan hills to watch a couple of our oldest friends get married in stunning surroundings.
When booking we thought to ourselves, why not explore some more of Italy while we’re at it?
So we hired a bright orange Fiat Panda and drove from Pisa airport to Tuscany for the wedding, then a short drive to Florence for three days, then a longer drive up to Lake Garda to meet up with some friends, then a final hop over to the coast where we dropped off the car and had a couple of days in Venice before flying back to the UK.
We packed a lot into two weeks and I saw some fantastic sights that actually made me a bit emotional: the beautiful Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, the 3-metre-tall splendor of Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and countless other masterpieces that I’d studied in art history books. There was also an impressive thunderstorm in Tuscany, gondola traffic jams in Venice and swimming in lake Garda accompanied by baby ducks.
If you’re planning a trip to these parts of Italy, here are my top tips:
To really appreciate the meandering landscapes, hire a car. Then you can explore the many ancient fort towns that dot the hilltops.
There are also countless vineyards offering tours; if we were to go again we’d see if we could do a joint cheese and wine-making tour.
Florence is the place to go for those interested in art and architecture. If you’re spending a few days there it’s well worth investing in a Firenze card - €85 will get you access to all the museums and attractions worth visiting, including the Uffizi gallery and Academia. It’s valid for 72 hours and is well worth it for the queue jump alone!
If you’re planning on driving to Florence, don’t! It’s a whole confusion of restricted zones, expensive parking and potential fines. There’s a new parking facility a short tram ride out of Florence called Villa Contanza, which is cheap as chips at €7 a day. There’s also a decent café/restaurant there where you can refuel.
For stunning turquoise waters, impressive mountain backdrops and quaint towns, head to Lake Garda. You’ll find a much more varied choice of food and drink on offer due to the popularity of the area with German and Austrian tourists, so if you’re sick of pasta and pizza you’re in for a treat! German is spoken widely here so if you’re not great at Italian but have more confidence using German, go for it.
Taking the ferry is a fun and fairly inexpensive way to explore the towns on the lake, and the cooling breeze sitting on the top deck is a welcome relief.
Taking the water taxi from the airport straight to the canals of the city is a unique experience – to be honest, I’ll probably get the train next time! The water taxi was hot, cramped and bumpy so if you’re after comfort, you might be better off on the train.
If I was to go again I’d also be more mindful of how much my bag weighs – a lot of the townhouse hotels are boutique-y but basic and lugging a big bag up 6 flights of stairs in the heat is no joke!
My other tip would be don’t go anywhere without a map – even the most well-orientated person can get lost in the warren of streets. But they are so much fun to explore so take your comfiest shoes.
Hopefully you find these tips useful - let me know if you have any more I can add.
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