I know it’s been awhile… but I had so many friends texting me and DMs on Instagram to share more about our Italy trip that I decided to bring it all here! I’m going to break this up into a few parts, because there are so many details that I don’t want to miss sharing with you.
Jeremy and I got married back in November, but waited until May to take our dream honeymoon. We decided on Italy pretty far in advance, but had tons of recommendations to wait for warmer weather. We opted for 4-day mini-moon in New Orleans starting the day after the wedding and it was perfect. I’m so thankful we took the time to get away and celebrate alone for a few days before coming home to Nashville.
I’m going to be 100% honest with you: I was so intimidated by the idea of booking this trip. I researched the internet, read blogs, listened to podcasts, and soaked up any information on how to plan a vacation to Italy. Every single time that I would sit down to book flights, we would change our mind on which cities to visit or rethink where we should start and end the trip. Also, flying to Europe isn’t super cheap so trying to find the best deals wasn’t the easiest. After I booked our flights, it felt real and finally gave me a structure to follow. I knew where we would begin and where we would end.
Tip #1: Choose the cities you want to go to first. I didn’t have a ton of desire to go to Rome, but my husband loves history and it was a must for him. I love wine and knew I wanted to spend a few days in Tuscany. I love the itinerary we went with for a few reasons. First of all, it made sense geographically to me. We started in Florence and worked our way all the way South to the Amalfi Coast. Secondly, we saw so much without feeling too rushed. Lastly, we have a reason to go back because we didn’t see everything. This leads me into…
Tip #2: Don’t try to see everything. Stick to a few cities and try to see the most important things to you in those cities. We didn’t go to Milan. We didn’t go to Lake Como. We didn’t got to Cinque Terre. We didn’t go to Venice – which means we’ll go back in the future! Jeremy and I made lists of all the cities we wanted to visit and then chose what made the most sense for this trip. Getting to focus on 3 regions meant seeing more in each of those places instead of less in more cities.
Tip #3: Be organized. I made a conscious decision to be extremely organized. I typed out our entire itinerary in advance, made two printed copies (one for me and one for Jeremy), and sent it to a few people close to us so they would know where we were in case of an emergency. I included every little detail in this – I even scheduled time to be spontaneous. I knew that if I figured everything out before we left, that I wouldn’t stress at all once we got there. And it worked. I copied the confirmation numbers for the flights, any sightseeing tickets, our rental car, our cooking class, etc. into the itinerary AND took printed copies of any booking confirmations. This was so helpful. Like when we picked up our rental car and there was a huge language barrier, we were able to just hand over the printed confirmation sheet.
Now that I’ve gotten to share my big tips, here it is! Let’s start at the beginning.
DAY 1: TRAVEL DAY
Jeremy and I flew from Nashville to Newark first. Nashville has a lot of great flights, but it’s SO expensive to fly international out of here. We flew Southwest up to Newark (we have companion pass and used points, so this flight was essentially free!), grabbed our bags, and checked in again with United for our flight to Florence. The airport in Florence is smaller than Rome or Milan so I couldn’t find a direct flight from the U.S. for our dates. We stopped in Brussels, Belgium for a quick layover and hopped on our last flight to get to Italy! Side note: we have matching sets of black and white Calpak luggage for when we travel that I love. I also found the matching backpacks (on sale now for less than $30) that slide on top of our carry-on bags which made everything even easier to roll around.
DAY 2: FLORENCE
It was around 8:00 when we landed in Brussels and by 11:00, we had made it to Florence! We opted to pickup our rental car at the airport since we were going to spend the next 3 days in Chianti. If you are traveling through the countryside, definitely rent a car. They drive on the same side of the road as we do in America so the biggest difference is the signage. We wanted to stay one night in the city of Florence since we were already there and had a few things to see. We checked-in at our hotel, Sina Villa Medici, and gave ourselves some time to relax. I scheduled something late in the afternoon so we would have to get out instead of sleep away our first day. After lots of research, I knew we would want to adjust to the 7 hour time difference as quickly as possible. JET LAG IS SO REAL.
The Duomo in Florence has a tour where you can climb stairs to the top of the cupola and see the entire city! It’s extremely challenging and not great for anyone with severe claustrophobia, but so worth it. After that, we walked through the main piazza, grabbed a cone of gelato from Venchi, and made our way to Ponte Vecchio. The shopping in Florence is great so we shopped while we ventured back to the hotel. We took a quick 20 minute nap and headed downstairs for dinner at the hotel. Jeremy and I split a pizza, then went to bed so we could wake up at a decent time the next day.
DAY 3: FLORENCE/ CHIANTI
We had late check-out at the hotel so we took advantage by spending the morning in Florence. I LOVE espresso and was very excited to have my morning caffeine fix here. We grabbed a doppio to-go on the way to meet-up for the first guided tour. Everyone that has been to the Academia Gallery said it was a must and they were right. It was incredible. Our tour guide here talked us through Michelangelo’s process and explained how he worked differently than any other sculptor. Seeing the Statue of David in person was crazy, but getting to hear the backstory made it even better. I booked all of our tours for the trip through an app called GetYourGuide. I loved this because I was able to click the meet-up point button for directions!
After our morning at the Academia gallery, we found a cute pizzeria for lunch. I’m pretty sure we each had a glass of wine every time we sat down to eat on this trip. We checked-out of the hotel and drove to the countryside. This was super eventful. It’s only about a 45 minute drive to Greve in Chianti, but it was raining and the roads are WAY smaller than they are in America. We would go down what I thought was a one-way street and then have an Italian driving straight for us without actually hitting us. Jeremy put it best with, “I don’t know if Italians are terrible drivers, or if they’re incredible. They seem reckless, but they don’t hit your car… I think they might be the best drivers ever.”
We drove up a muddy hill and once we got to the top, with barely any way to turn around, realized the road was closed. We had to try and re-route on our own since our GPS still wanted to take us up the same way up the hill. It finally reset and about 20 minutes later we found another way to the hotel. We both just laughed through the whole thing, because if you’re lost in Italy, there’s no way the be upset. You’re still in Italy!
That afternoon we drove a few minutes up the street to the small village of Panzano. We found an enoteca to have a few glasses of wine and looked up somewhere to go for dinner. We found a highly rated restaurant nearby, walked over as soon as they opened, and asked if we could get a table. They squeezed us in without a reservation and we ate one of my favorite meals of our honeymoon. The restaurant was called Oltre il Giardino. The view was absolutely stunning. We ordered a bottle of Chianti and a few Tuscan dishes. The pesto pasta was so fresh. We also had the lamb (one of my favorite foods) and white beans. We drove around trying to find gelato post-dinner, but Panzano is small so we were out of luck.
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2…