Next month Hailey and Victor and I are going to Italy to visit an old friend.  It is the first time we’ve ever been and will probably be the only time since we don’t travel much so we’re going to try to do Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome and Pompeii in less than a week.  That sounds pretty undoable but technically we’re strange travelers and tend to go to bizarre sites rather than touristy places so maybe we can make it work.

I know literally nothing about Italy so is there anything we shouldn’t miss?

Bonus for creepy, weird, fun.

A few things I have on my list are seeing some of the incorruptible bodies of saints, crypts and catacombs, the Roman Cat Sanctuary where Ceasar was murdered, The Oak of Witches and the Bridge of Sighs.  Where else should we go?

328 thoughts on “Italy!

Read comments below or add one.

  1. I have a couple people I can ask, but I know the Vatican is supposed to be really beautiful. I’ll grab back to you.

  2. Oh my gosh, I was in Italy in college. I drove my brother (who I was traveling with) crazy because I carried around that ‘Let’s Go Europre’ like it was a key to my survival. I insisted we see all of the touristy things because I feared I would never get back, and I haven’t gotten back. Sigh. What I would avoid – McDonalds. My stupid brother was so disappointed by our first ‘real’ Italian meal, because we couldn’t speak Italian and we didn’t know what to order, that he insisted that the rest of our meals be eaten in McDonalds where he could predict the portion size. So weak. We were in Italy for God’s sake. And he had no sense of direction, so I had to direct him to the damn fast food chain each time we wanted to eat there. Once it was literally right behind him and he was like, where is it? I barely survived. Have a great trip!

  3. When in Venice, use lots of bug repellent. They have exceptionally vicious mosquitos! Also of note- pizza in Italy is much thinner than we are used to. You’ll need to order it and another entree if you’re hungry.

  4. Lido beach off Venice is a lovely break from the tourists and crowds. Beautiful beach, nice cafes, local ppl only ten minutes from San Marco sq

  5. You should probably go see the Capuchin Crypt if you’re going to be in Rome.

    You eat your way through Italy, because everything is weird and creepy since it’s all kind of ancient!

    I don’t think you have enough time to do all of that stuff in a week, because they’re not close to each other. Florence is fun for the multiple statues of David that you can find everywhere, as well as all the other amazing art. But if art is not your thing…you could skip Florence/Pisa. (It pains me to say that, since I LOVE Florence and bought my first condo because the roofdeck reminded me of Florence. And Pisa really has nothing obvious to see aside from that building. Still fun to see it though.) But Venice is sooo great and Rome has all that bloody history, and Pompeii…well. obviously who doesn’t want to see the naked pictures from ancient times?

  6. We rushed everywhere and I regret the haste, because I much prefer to travel leisurely, but one afternoon, I sat at a cafe outside the front of the Pantheon, watching the people, having coffee and a chocolate mousse, and various world-class singers stood in the square and performed outdoors. If you get a chance, stop there. It’s a nice rest, and it’s magical.

  7. The Torture Museum in San Gimignano. It’s pretty crazy. And not far from Florence.

  8. The Isola de San Michele is a beautiful cemetery, then there’s the San Servolo ibsane asylum museum, and Poveglia, which you can’t actually visit because it’s off-limits, but you should read about just because it is freaky. The Doge palace is nice, so’s thw cathedral, but if you’re strapped f or time, there is a ghost tour you can book. Have fun!!!

  9. Pisa is pretty boring and has a lot of tourists looking for that perfect picture. Pompeii sounds perfect for you. All the “stuff” from Pompeii is in a museum in Naples. Might also want to check out Herculaneum.

  10. Mouth of Truth in Rome you can then go inside the church to see St. Valentine’s Skull. That was an interesting bonus.

  11. Definitely hit Santa Maria della Concesione dei Cappuccini church in Rome. Decorated with the dessicated bodies and bones of former monks.
    As for Florence and Venice – just enjoy. They are two amazing cities to walk around in and get lost.
    I’ll be there in October. Sorry our paths won’t cross.

  12. There’s a spot in Rome where you look through a keyhole and see the dome of St Peter’s.

  13. When you’re exploring Pompeii, check out all the penises (penii?) on the walls and streets leading to brothels. Oh, and one of the brothel’s menus is still quite visible. The menu is a group of tiled mosaics that a patron could point to so, you know, no reading required. Quite lovely artwork, actually.

  14. I went in 2017 and we did Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Rome, and Pompeii in 8 days or so, so it’s possible. For me, Venice, Siena, Rome, and Pompeii were highlights (Pompeii was day trip from Rome, but go early). Venice is worth staying in as long as possible especially if you’re off season (I got engaged there on the trip), and wandering the back streets is worth it. Rome do the Coliseum (preferable get in a tour group, the regular line is WAY TOO LONG) and the ruins. Vatican is worth it but it takes a long time (and long lines, book ahead). Mostly EAT EAT EAT (DRINK) and relax when you can.

  15. Oh, yeah – and second the suggestion to eat gelato. It’ll spoil you for the stuff you can get here.

  16. Couple of people have already said.. but the Capuchin Crypt in Rome is friggin cool. And then there are the cats hanging out at the Sanctuary Amongst the Ruins. I mean, it’s just feral cats.. but you know. Roman feral cats.

  17. Do not eat gelato from the places that pile it high — real Italian gelato makers do not do that, only the ones in touristy areas. The Vatican is amazing, take the tour. OMG so many great things!!! There are regional specialties all over. The dessert that you had and loved in Florence (cantuccini vin santo — little biscotti dunked in sweet wine) will not be available in Rome (personal experience.) The outlying islands near Venice are great – Murano (glass blowers) and Burano (lace). I love everything about Italy, have been there multiple times and in fact taking my 79-year old mother there in March. Siena, San Gimignano, Positano — I could go on forever.

  18. Skip Pisa and go to Lucca instead. In Puisa you only see the square with the leaning tower, Lucca is close and you get to visit a medieval city still surrounded by its wall, and you can walk omn top of them

  19. Pisa is pretty boring. Lots of tourists looking for that perfect picture. Pompeii sounds great for you! All the “stuff” from Pompeii is in a museum in Naples. Check out Herculaneum.

  20. The Capuchin Crypt on Via Veneto in Rome. Rooms and furniture (chandeliers etc.) made of human bones. You will love it!

  21. You already mentioned crypts, but I hope the Capuchin Crypt in Rome is on that list. Interior decorating of the most macabre kind.

  22. Things we loved, have been to Italy twice: Rome – just walking around and getting to know the city, finding the tiny gelato shops, seeing the Colosseum lit up at night, hidden restaurants with awesome food. Florence was my favorite – the bridge jewelry shops, the cathedral is gorgeous. Catacombs in Sicily, super creepy cool. Pompeii just appreciating how quickly those people all died, the whole place is overwhelming, sad, and amazing. Also the Cinque Terre doing the hikes are awesome, tough on your feet, so much walking, and we stayed in an actual castle near there. Definitely have gelato every hour or at least every day.

  23. I love Florence most of all! If you’d like creepy, there is a medical museum in Florence with way more information about the history of medicine than you’d thought of asking for! Realistic models of bodies, diseased and whole. Tons of fun. See what you think.

  24. Capuchin crypt in Rome (Vis Vittorio Veneto 27, 00187) The Capuchin Crypt is a small space comprising several tiny chapels located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini in Rome, Italy. It contains the skeletal remains of 3,700 bodies believed to be Capuchin friars buried by their order. They don’t allow pictures, charge a small fee for entrance and have several tasty gelato places nearby. Cover your shoulders!

  25. When in Venice, pay extra for the Secret Itineraries tour at the Doge’s Palace. SO CREEPY.

  26. My uncle who had a home in Italy always said to skip Pisa. There’s nothing there but the Leaning Tower, and the drive there and back takes the better part of a day. Use that time somewhere more interesting.

  27. I love Italy. It is seriously one of my favorite places on earth. That’s a lot of real estate to cover in a short time, so I recommend cutting it back to 2 cities if you can. That way you can see more. Here are my ideas for the more unusual things to do. Keep in mind, lines in Italy are looooooooooooong, so some things may not be doable with your short window.

    Rome: The Keyhole, The Vatican Museums/St. Peters (the lines here are worth it, even if you’re not Catholic.)

    Florence: Michaelangelo’s Piazza at sunset, wander the streets and take pics of Clet Abraham’s art on street signs, Perche No for gelato, Dante’s Museum, Il Papiro for handmade paper (you have to go for the bookstore!), and Farmacia Santa Maria Novella for delightful soaps & pampering treats.

    Venice: Take a gondola ride in the neighborhoods (not on the Grand Canal) Go to Murano (glass) or Burano (lace). Aqua Alta bookshop (the best bookstore I’ve ever gone to in all the places I’ve been. They have 5 awesome (and ballsy) bookstore cats!)

    In all the cities, wander the streets at night and get lost. Take lots of pictures. Eat too much food. Enjoy the hell out of yourselves. Italy is beautiful–breathtakingly so.

  28. Pompeii if you like creepy and cool. I know the Vatican is beautiful, but you will waste a day and probably want to stab people so I would avoid it. I found it kind of offensive because it is so commercialized. In Venice get on the boat taxi (vaparetto) and go to a random stop and walk around the neighboorhood. Avoid tourists. Go to Siena instead of Florence. Trust me on that. Follow locals to restaurants wherever you are. You will not have a bad meal.


  29. Weird and creepy in Florence: La Specola, a collection of wax anatomical models from the 18th century.
    If the main cathedral is busy (and it will be) rather head up to St Minias on the mountain, an 11th century Romanesque church. It has a wonderful interior with mosaics. The church complex includes a shop where monks sell herbal teas, liqueurs and remedies. Lovely views of Florence as you walk down to the Arno.

  30. Definitely the Capuchin Crypt, and Herculaneum is better preserved (and much less busy) than Pompeii.

  31. Seconding the Cappucin monastery in Rome. GO. YOU WILL LOVE IT.

    Also, you have to write to them in advance for tickets, but there’s a tour of the cemetery under Saint Peter’s. Highly recommended, I’ve been several times. It’s where Saint Pete was supposedly buried (I’m not religious, but it’s super cool). It’s not the catacombs, rather, it was an above-ground cemetery that was buried in order to build the church on top.

    Galileo’s middle finger in Florence at the science museum:
    Saint Catherine’s severed head in Siena:
    Saint Anthony’s tongue in Pauda:

  32. Check out the Atlas Obscura site. Great source for the odd and unusual. I always reference it when traveling.

  33. The Scavi under the Vatican. Way under the Vatican. These are ruins that predate the Vatican and are where they think they found St. Peter’s remains (The dude they crucified upside down). It is a way, way cool, creepy tour (not religious at all), but they are very strict with rules to get tickets. Well worth the trouble, though.. (For example: Some burial sites are two stories so the family could visit and party above their dead relatives. Here is the link.

  34. Across the river in Florence is the natural history museum. It is bizarre and wonderful and full of terrible taxidermy. You would love it.

  35. When I went with my family we took a pasta cooking class in Rome at Alfredo’s, the restaurant that started Alfredo sauce. It was super fun and then we got to eat dinner afterwards. Plus we had the restaurant to ourselves!!

  36. The Catacombs in Rome it’s a underground cemetery but careful you could get lost follow your guide
    CHRISTINE MCINTYRE missmac2004

  37. Pompii is amazing and definitely wierd. From the street penises to the ash-preserved bodies. Way more fun than Venice.

  38. Eat gelato every day! Walk around in the area across the Arno River from the Duomo and Baptistry…it’s less crowded and just lovely. Don’t wear shorts if you plan on going into any churches and carry a big scarf to cover your shoulders if you have on a sleeveless top. Take time to walk and just absorb the wonderfulness.

  39. Agree with other comments about skipping Pisa. Rather spend an extra day in Rome.
    I found the Vatican too much – far too crowded, and long waits to get through security etc. I’d skip it entirely, and rather wander around. Rome is fabulous for strolling. And the Pantheon is an absolute must-see.

  40. In Venice, visit the Jewish quarter. There is a Jewish restaurant Gam Gam with fantastic food (at least it was in 2002). The museum there is very interesting too!

  41. When I took the Vatican tour on a Saturday in September, the crowds were shoulder to shoulder. Pressed together to reach the ticket booths. Might not be your thing.

    Lucca is highly recommended by some friends as a very pleasant and less touristy part of Tuscany.

  42. Oh my gosh, this is the best. I’m going to Italy in October, so thanks for all the great tips, y’all.

  43. The natural history museum in Venice is a great combo of modern and creepy Victorian

  44. Ok I’m going to be brutally honest but I live here so there’s method in my madness: remove Pisa and Florence from that list, travelling in Italy is not straightforward and you will be too tired plus they’re both overrated. Venice and Rome are arguably the two most beautiful cities in the world and they are both best appreciated at mooching pace. Nap in the afternoon and have late dinners. Walk at night. Ask for local food recommendations. Book NOW for any sites you want to see you cannot just turn up and expect to get in. If you do nothing else cultural book a trip to the Villa Borghese in Rome, it is quite simply out of this world, the Uffizi has nothing on it. When you’re in Venice, just allow yourself to get lost – you don’t have to go far to lose the crowds.

  45. I just got back from Italy! It was my first trip there, and the things I ended up enjoying the most were the things that were free or cheap!
    I loved the town of Vinci, it’s between Florence and Pisa and it’s where Leonardo Da Vinci is from. I think you’d enjoy it.
    I loved walking around Rome in the evenings and finding the ruins where lots of cats live.
    I found a beach along the coast, quite by accident, it was so beautiful, it was called Spiaggia Ansedonia.

  46. The Park of Pratolino looks incredible— it’s open weekends and is apparently less “touristy” which appeals to my desire to not be near a lot of people. It’s near Florence. Also you should see me because I will also be in Italy next month and so it’s maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity to see me in Italy! Join our group painting watercolours. I’ve never painted using watercolours. It’ll be a mess. Only other things I’ve picked up is to not say ciao unless they say ciao first and order your coffee standing up.

  47. I would skip pisa. Most of the city was destroyed (and rebuilt after) in the war. In 15 days, we did Rome, sorrento, isle of capri, amalfi coast and Pompeii, then up to pisa via sienna, then to florence, Verona, venice and back to Rome. Your plan is doable.

    Verona (Romeo and Juliet) has a more complete collesium. Florence is flash and art. Rome is old and the Vatican and art and the best hot chocolate. You all will love it. I promise. And I know you will find the wierd!

  48. I drove a rented RV from Rome to Pisa and up into the mountains. It was terrifying and wonderful! The Italian people are wacky… all of Europe agrees. They are also super friendly and helpful, and the menfolk are still full of charming chivalry… like if you van sort of put your feminism in your back pocket for a few days, they will help you out with things like pumping gas and figuring out parking signs.

  49. I’m assuming you already know about the Santa Maria della Concezione Crypt in Rome–really stunning. The capuchin monks decorated the crypts with all the bones of deceased monks–crypt of skulls, of leg bones, one of pelvises… The cat sanctuary is interesting–the shelter below where they tend to the ill/special needs kitties is great. (Donate!!) Since you love books, must see Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice which floods constantly so the books are kept in boats and bathtubs. Also we really enjoyed visiting the San Servolo (island) Insane Asylum Museum in Venice. Really interesting, lovely boat ride over on a nice day and there was a cool outside art exhibit utilizing photos of patients from previous century when we were there. There are a couple of “plague” islands we didn’t get to and the Scuola Grande de San Marco–small museum of early surgical instruments…
    I’ve been to your other destinations but not for many years and followed the more typical sight-seeing advice back then. The La Specola Anatomical Collection in Florence sounds awesome and who wouldn’t want to see Galileo’s middle finger (at Galileo museum in Florence)???

    You are covering a lot of ground in a short time so good luck, enjoy, buon viaggio!!!

  50. There’s a hill town in Umbria called Orvieto. It’s on the top of a hill. There’s a funicular to get you from the parking lot at the bottom up to the historic town. There’s two things there, other than the usual cathedral: 1. Beautiful pottery made by local artisans, and 2. The Orvieto Underground tour. Under the hilltop is a whole complex of caves, tunnels, rooms, etc., dug out of the rock. It was fascinating, a little creepy, and a lot wonderful. It’s a charming small city even without that, and a hidden jewel. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Also, the Orvieto wine is very good.

  51. If you do ignore everyone and go to Pisa, one of the coolest things I remember from Europe was going into the Baptistery (in the same area as the tower), a tour guide shutting the doors and singing harmony with himself due to the amazing acoustics. I was 13 and just blown away. That and wandering into St. Mark’s in Venice when a full choir was singing. Plus all the lapis and gold mosaics in there are gorgeous.

  52. Pisa is basically a day trip from Florence, and all there is to really see is the tower (as we found out when our flight got rerouted from Florence to Pisa). Prebook a private tour of the Duomo so you can go to the top, and even onto the roof. And definitely wear comfy shoes…it’s a lot of narrow steps to the top. I really wanted to love Pompeii, but it wasn’t my favorite…I was told after the fact there are better, smaller ruins you can go visit, but I’ve forgotten their names. We did Pompeii as a day trip from Naples and figuring out the trains was only slightly confusing. The Naples Underground tour was awesome. Venice was great for us (midwinter so no cruise ships), but it’s easy to get lost, so a local SIM is definitely a good investment. Verona is only about an hour north of Venice and was great for wandering around. Lots of old castles and arenas, and you can go to Juliet’s window

  53. In my opinion, Pisa was over rated and people selling souvenirs will drive you nuts. Luca and Sienna are gorgeous and easier to navigate. Montecatini Terme is also a wonderful little place perfect for walking around in the evening. The Vatican, while beautiful, gave me anxiety due to the crowds. Above all, do what you feel like doing….it is an amazing place!

  54. If no one else has suggested it, you simply MUST visit the Capuchin Crypt. It’s under the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini in Rome, Italy.

    I’m linking to the Wikipedia article because words just can’t describe it. Photos don’t do it justice either, but get the idea across better:

  55. If you haven’t already go on ALWAYS has weird shit to find on vacation.

  56. The scale of Venice is unbelievable-don’t miss it. Pompeii is big but worth it. The archeological in Naples has many of the mosaic medallions from Pompeii.

  57. You can see Galileo’s (middle) finger at the Galileo museum in Florence. You need 10 mins at Accademia to see David, you can get tickets now online so you don’t wait in line. Uffizi is a great museum as well, also get tickets in advance. Gucci museum is fun for different reasons. Faramcia Santa Maria Novella is one of the world’s oldest pharmacies, they have perfumes and liquors, cool spot. Eat at La Giostra in Florence and get gelato at Perche No! I’ve personally never been able to make it to Villa Demidoff, but I’ve been wanting to go, it’s always closed when we go. Sculpture of a Colossus in the mountain in the park.

    Venice, you can go to Gondalier school, instead of taking a gondola ride, you can drive it yourself.

    Rome, you can take a whole Underground Rome tour, check out Imago Artis Travel, they can provide information for private tour of Underground Rome and they can get you into the Vatican before it opens very early to be in the Sistine Chapel. I suspect you already know about Capuchin Crypt. Eat at Il Pompiere (the fireman in the Jewish Ghetto, excellent cacio e pepe; eat potato pizza anywhere in Rome. You can also take a day trip to Pompeii from Rome, so this is definitely doabale, trains are really easy. Buon Viaggio!

  58. The tours called “Walks of (whatever city you are in)”, if they are still in business, are EXCELLENT. I did the Vatican and catacombs ones in Rome. If you do them, try to get the guides who are art history students, they are fun to listen to especially at the Vatican, where they tell you the more salacious versions of the stories concerning each piece of art.

  59. Get on Netflix and watch the Italian episodes of Somebody feed Phil and I’ll have what Phil is having. I don’t remember if it’s Florence or Venice but I think he visits a gelato place that seems to bring tears to his eyes. Vivoli, I think was the name of it. I would like to try gelato that could make you cry. Have a great trip!!!

  60. I do have one tip for traveling in Italy. If you’re renting a car, park it at the airport or train terminal at the city you’re visiting, and take a taxi. We had a reservation in Florence. We drove around and around for an hour, finding the street, and then the building #s before the hotel, and the ones after it, but could NOT find the hotel. We finally parked at the bus terminal and called a cab. The driver took us to exactly the same spot we’d been at, got out of the cab and took down one of the stanchions around a pedestrian only zone, drove 100 feet down the pedestrian zone, and there it was. We never drove in an Italian city again.

  61. Vatican City /Rome night stroll. Not as crowded and beautiful. I know it’s not weird or crazy, but it will allow you time to do weird stuff in the day, and still see the traditional sites.

  62. One more thing.

    Re: gelato.

    First rule: eat as much as you can, please!
    Second, in the touristy areas, ask what the price is before you order. Some gelato shops, simply because of location, are grossly overpriced. Be patient and find shops a little further off the beaten path where the pricing is more reasonable.
    Third rule: see rule number one.

  63. You would really love seeing Damanhur, it is near Turin Italy. It “is perhaps best known for its extraordinary subterranean work of art and architecture, a cathedral known as the Temples of Humankind. It has been profiled on international television as the “Eighth Wonder of The World.” This complex was entirely dug by hand into the heart of the mountain. Decorated with mosaics, stained glass, sculptures, wall paintings and other works of art, it is dedicated to the awakening the divine spark present in every human being.” It’s a magical place, be sure to make a reservation BEFORE you arrive!

  64. In Venice, tour the Doge’s Palace is you want to walk through the Bridge of Sighs. It was a cool tour – LOTS of history, which I found more interesting than expected. Definitely book the tour that has the “skip the line” option, because to hell with that mess.

    Eat all the cicchetti, and drink the wine for me!!

  65. I don’t know about creepy and weird, but there are awesome glassblowers on the island of Murano, just off Venice. If Hailey hasn’t seen pro glassblowers, she might enjoy it. Beautiful work!

  66. I agree with others that Herculaneum can be more “do-able” than Pompeii, and the structures are better preserved, but both are fascinating and would seem to be right up your alley. Lots of the stuff from both sites can be seen at the wonderful National Archaeological Museum in Naples, a city that’s just a 35-minute train ride from Pompeii or a 20-minute ride from Ercolano, Plus there is also a small Museum of Torture in Naples, as well as an underground, some castles, catacombs, the Sansevero crypt and its oddities —who wouldn’t want to see all that?! (My mom rented an apartment in Naples this summer, and we explored everywhere else from there, so I apologize for such Naples-centric recommendations!) I hate doing product plugs, but we downloaded Rick Steves “Audio Europe” app for our phones and –with the help of our own headphones/earbuds– we were able to explore many places on foot with full self-paced audio tours that included both customizable walking routes and specific attractions and museums. It saved us a lot of money and made our exploring much more productive and enjoyable. Have fun!

  67. Rome: Palazzo Spada, Toree Atgentina, Biblioteca Casanatense, Mirabilia Art Gallery. Tons more.

    Venice: San Servolo, Scala Contarini del Bovolo, so much art and architecture I can’t begin to tell you everything. Peggy Guggenheim Museum (I lived next door during a semester abroad) is a must. Palazzo Dario was on the other side of us and I always loved the facade on the Canal. Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni for the Carpaccio paintings. So much art in locations it was commisioned for. Plus a lot of the normal touristy stuff is fun, too.

    Herculaneum instead of Pompeii.

    Help. Can I go with you?

  68. When in Venice and walking amongst the buildings, look down. The ancient dead of Venice are beneath your feet. There is so little land on which to bury the dead that the one graveyard (on a separate nearby island) is “temporary resting space”. Older bodies (that have decayed to just bones) have been removed from their graves and placed under the stones of many of the alleyways. So as you walk around Venice, you are supported by the dead.

    I loved that. But I’m weird. Maybe your kind of weird.

  69. Skip Pompeii and go to Ostia Antica, much closer and a much quieter, lovelier ruined city.

  70. I think you’d appreciate Pompeii. I know you like to go off the beaten path, but it’s a pretty morbid tourist attraction if you think about it.

  71. Drink shit-tons of espresso in the morning. 1 euro a shot in a bar, stand up drinking. BEST COFFEE IN THE WORLD. Don’t put any crap in it either, straight up espresso. Act like a local doing this. Take 5 minutes to drink it, move 200 meters down the street, rinse and repeat.

  72. I know it’s not on your list, but get to Capri if you can. The Blue Grotto is amazing, especially after a few lemoncellos!

  73. I know it’s not on your itenerary, but you should go to Sienna. Central Sienna is divided into wards called Contrada. Each has its own flag and is represented by an anamal mascot. Some are adorable, some are hilarious. We enjoyed it.

  74. You need more than one day in Venice, and it’s far north, so if you’re going to leave one city off and do it later, I would do that one (because you really need 4-5 days there.)

  75. In Rome there is a church called The Bone Church, former home of the monks who gave us the word cappuccino. It is full of beautiful art all made of human skulls and bones. Sounds right up your alley. Enjoy your trip!

  76. One more thing, if you’re into creepy religious relics, the Medici Chapel in Florence has a ton. The rest of the chapel is pretty interesting with the semi-precious stones making up the inners of the chapel, but the relics are way out there. And there’s a lot of Florentine history, if you’re into that kind of thing.

    Also, if you do the Vatican, be sure to go to the top of the dome. It’s worth the cost of the elevator ride to the top to see the inside of the dome, and it’s the highest point in Rome, so you get a great view of the city. My favorite part: there’s a snack bar and gift shop on the roof, so you can send a postcard postmarked from Vatican City and enjoy an ice cream bar away from the crowds with great views.

    If you’re even considering the Colosseum, I’d skip it and head out of town to the ancient town of Ostia Antica. The ruins are still in pretty good condition, and there are virtually no crowds. We had the place almost to ourselves, versus the Forum/Colosseum where it was nuts to butts the whole time. (Ok, I’m done now. Probably.)

  77. Pisa is a giant tourist trap; spend as little time there as possible. I’ve spent a good bit of time in Italy on a couple occasions and my advice would be to wander around. Find non-touristy corners and just take things in. Eat a lot of gelato. And if you can get to Assisi or some other little town, do it! The little towns are the prettiest and Assisi is so peaceful and quiet. I will say Italy isn’t the most accessible place so be prepared to walk. Bring your pain meds. But Italy is beautiful and you’ll love it!

  78. My daughter and I were just there.
    I loathe sightseeing but this place was the bomb.
    The hair baby is almost too much to bear.

    There was also a beautiful art display at a gallery very close, that had drawings ( long time ago) by inmates at the local psychiatric hospital.
    If you do go to Naples, hold your bags close, the thieves are swift and very very good.
    I foiled them, but they did, unbeknownst to me, open my computer bag, to no avail.
    There is also an EPIC dress shop there.
    TBH it’s worth the trip just for the Pasta di Mandala ( sp)

  79. My daughter and I were just there.
    I loathe sightseeing but this place was the bomb.

    There was also a beautiful art display at a gallery very close, that had drawings ( long time ago) by inmates at the local psychiatric hospital.
    If you do go to Naples, hold your bags close, the thieves are swift and very very good.
    I foiled them, but they did, unbeknownst to me, open my computer bag, without me knowing.
    There is also an EPIC dress shop there.
    TBH it’s worth the trip just for the Pasta di Mandala ( sp)

  80. 1) Buy Euros before you go.AAA can get them for you.
    2) Pre-order tickets for the Vatican Museum & the Uffizi Museum before you go.
    3) Some of the AM “guides” (you skip the ticket lines this way & learn “alotsa things”) at the Coliseum also do afternoon tours of Palatine Hill & the ruins of the Forum/Ancient Rome. Inexpensive. Good tours.
    4) Pickpockets are everywhere (except Pompeii). Get a money belt/under clothing pouch for passports & cash.
    5) Have an amazing time & remember to BREATHE!
    jan barkhurst

  81. And you would be mad to miss a tour of the Colosseum.
    I was made to do it, but it’s fascinating.
    And eat Cacio e Pepe in Rome.

  82. We visited an ossuary in Milan, but they probably have ossuaries in other areas you are visiting. Beware of crowds in Venice. It is such an incredibly busy city – but it is beautiful. Just take a breather every once in a while.

  83. The Borghese Gallery in Rome is so worth it. You need to buy tickets in advance (can do it online) and it’s set in a beautiful park. Just don’t eat in their cafeteria. The sculptures and paintings plus architecture will take your breath away. And eat at Arlu, it’s a fantastic family owned restaurant nearish to the Vatican. Also Castel Sant’ Angelo was a really cool to see and not as busy as other tourist attractions. Have fun!!!

  84. I would skip Venice and divide the week between Florence and Rome. You can take the train from Rome to Pompeii for the day. You can take the train from Florence to Pisa for a day.

  85. Change your plans right now to add at least a week. Or only go to Florence, Tuscany, and Rome.

    There were zero mosquitos in Venice when we went in September. Venice was my favorite, but you’re going to spend all of your time in transit if you keep your current itinerary.

    The Bridge of Sighs is something you could cut out if you’re really more interested in weird things. It’s very touristy and a bit expensive. I enjoyed it and the tour, but the actual bridge is only about 20 yds wide and all you have to do is cut out a star-shaped hole in a piece of paper and look through it at the canal that it crosses to get the idea. Although, come to think of it, the tour does include descriptions and show-and-tell of some of the torture methods they used to get confessions, so maybe it would be worth it for you if you’re looking for macabre.

    Definitely plan ahead with the skip-the-line tours. And you get what you pay for with tours. The more you pay the fewer the people you’ll be with on the tour. They’ll give you headsets on the tours so you can hear the guides, but you might only see a lot of the backs of heads on the cheaper tours. The tours were well worth it for me, otherwise everything eventually all looks the same. Have fun looking at all of the millions of baby Jesuses! Italy is so far my favorite place on Earth and I’ve been to 5 continents!

  86. Between Venice and Florence is Ferrara. In Ferrara is the Monastery of Corpus Domini. Lucrezia Borgia is entombed there. Personally, I wouldn’t miss it. Also, the Monastero delle Murate in Florence. Catherine de Medici was held there as child. It was later a men’s prison. It’s now a restaurant. OMG. Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice. A bookstore that floods so much they keep the books in bathtubs. Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, well dressed mummies ftw! I could name 50 more, check out Atlas Obscura :Italy.

  87. Caesar was not murdered at the cat sanctuary (the cat sanctuary is Toree Argentina). He was murdered on Palentine Hill, which is kinda behind the Colosseum. Pompeii is pretty damned boring. Go to Paestum instead. Less tourists, less lines, not as hot and really fucking cool. It’s the oldest GREEK settlement in Italy.

  88. Saw someone mention the colosseum ticket line. You can buy tickets at Palatine Hill, and skip the line at the Colosseum.

  89. If you go to Assisi (as St. Francis of) the body of St. Clare (Francis’s childhood friend who was from a very wealthy family of fabric merchants), is there in a CRYSTAL casket with priceless jewels encrusting her dress and body (sad, as she started the Poor Clare’s, an order of nuns that believed in Poverty, Chastity and Obedience..still do) so she was the female head of what St. Francis started as the Franciscan Brothers (monks).
    Otherwise, Florence is beautiful, as is Venice, except Venice is sinking, so see it while you can!

  90. Go to the catacombs in Rome. Also, most churches/basilicas have crypts beneath them, so try to see those!!! Italy is awesome. I spent a month there back in 94, and my noni was from Modena. I’m so excited for you guys!!!

  91. Jenny,

      How marvelous! I sent you an e-mail about my husband, who takes students to Italy every two or three years. No matter what you do, it will be a fantastic experience.


  92. We just got back last week from Lucca and our apartment looked out directly onto the Torture museum!!! We actually didn’t make it inside, but I think you would enjoy it! Wonderfully weird town and we rode family bicycles around the 2200 year old walls. Feel free to email me for details! We would have lived there if they let us.

  93. Ok, it’s been a minute since I was in Italy, but here are some recommendations. 1) In Florence go to the Science Museum and SKIP the Ufizzi. The Science Museum is cooler and less crowded. Also, Galileo’s finger, c’mon.
    2) Comment #69 said to go to Orvieto. DO IT. It’s the Medieval city of your dreams. You’re also so high up in the middle of Umbria that you can see an incredible distance. The entire town pretty much closes in the afternoon for break time, so you’ll have time to wander, see the amazing sites, and work up an appetite without crowds. I still have gorgeous hand made art pottery I bought there.
    3) I’m not sure if anyone has recommended this yet, but when in Florence, go to Santa Croce. Famous dead people + gorgeous tombs + statuary that will blow your mind. Absolutely worth the price of admission.

    And, like others have said, wear your money inside your clothes. Sometimes the pickpockets are small kids. Eat food, have a great time!

  94. The cat sanctuary in Rome which is also the site on which Julius Caesar was killed.

  95. Way way too much for a week. Must see the Michelangelo marbles in Florence. Also the ladies who feed the wild cats at the ruins near the Colosseum in Rome. Almost every church has the mummified remains of some important person, often encased in glass. Trevi fountain because then you’ll go back some day. Bon voyage.

  96. Yes to the catacombs in Rome!!! Libreria Aqua Alta in Venice, Galileo’s middle finger, Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy in Florence. Herculaneum is more manageable than Pompeii and very cool (and less crowded). The cat sanctuary in Tome where Caesar was murdered is definitely worth a visit. Finally, you should EAT! Every region/city has specialties, and it’s always worth seeking out the best gelato shops in each place.

  97. Just got back from Italy. Was in Florence, the Venice, (did a cruise) stopped in Sicily, Naples and Rome. Florence you can see in a day. Venice. Probably 2 days. When in Venice get the water taxi (Vapretto) will take you everywhere. Rome you will need more time. But definitely check out the Capuchin crypt. Totally your thing!! When In Rome grab the hop on hop off bus. Takes you everywhere. You get on where you want and off where you want. If you want too visit crypts book in advance! Same for Vatican City. Try to get the personal tour for Vatican otherwise queues are huge and crazy. Book in advance for the statue of David in Venice as well. Go early!
    Anything else send me a message!!

  98. I was there 6 years ago. Wood-fired pizza, local foods, and gelato are all can’t miss propositions.

  99. Here are my thoughts on Florence. It was a huge disappointment. I thought it was going to be like walking into an E.M. Forster novel. I planned to lean over the Arno and dramatically sing arias but it was completely brown and muddy looking. What’s up with that? Second, all the art in Florence is in museums. This is a big problem because you go in and they are super crowded and you have to follow the line from room to room, get vertigo, and if you need to leave you can’t until the end. Then at the end there was a place to buy food but the rule was either be seated and wait for the waiter, or buy at the counter and stand. Of course, I needed to eat immediately and sit, and it wasn’t allowed, and I was kind of freaking out by then so I bought my food and sat on the floor which didn’t go over well. I know this all makes me sound kind of high maintenance but I thought you might appreciate the intel. On the other hand, Rome has art lying around all over the place. In the streets, in random churches like if you just wander in there to go to the bathroom there’ll be a famous Caravaggio randomly hanging on the wall. So you can buy food, sit, and stare at centuries old stuff without feeling claustrophobic or hassled, which was kind of awesome.

  100. I see Pompeii is on the menu. That’s great, but don’t skip Naples while you’re there! It’s a unique break from the Disneyland vibe of Venice and Florence and even Rome. People warned us away mentioning pickpockets and more. It’s just not true. Incredible graffiti – and traditional art and architecture too – everywhere, very friendly people, and it’s wonderful to be in a real living working city that is not stuffed with tourists at every turn. Magnificent hilltop and cliffside ocean views, and of course, the best pizza!

  101. Jenny, I am really happy for you. 2 years ago, the thought of Italy would have been so off-putting for you that you might not have even considered going, but here you are. A seasoned over-seas traveler. Hearts and hugs to you!

  102. There is a church in Rome where the bones of Capuchin monks have been arranged and displayed. It’s definitely weird and a little creepy, but very moving, too. Also- eat ALL the Cheese!! I was vegan when we visited and this will forever be my greatest life regret!

  103. Bomarzo, north of Rome with the Garden of Monsters. Or Park of…, or Sacred Grove. A must for creepy fun.

  104. I lived near Pisa for about 11 years. When people came I had different ‘tours’ according to ‘likes’. So there were art tours, and cathedral tours, but also capucchino tours and wine tours where we did see some art and churches, but the focus was on trying as many different coffees(capucchino etc) or wines as we could. You cannot see it all, so pick a ‘theme’ and enjoy!

  105. Ercolano (Herculaneum) is much better preserved (plus bonus points for the preserved skeletons there of Vesuvius victims), mosaics are more impressive there too. I did both Pompeii and Ercolano on the same day which was….ambitious (crazy). Sorrento is highly recommended – beautiful views and a good base for trips to Pompeii and Ercolano. Happy trip planning!

  106. Milan has a church decorated with skulls. Lots and lots of skulls. I’m sure there must be more. Valletta had this amazing underground place with skeletons in bunk beds plus a girl dead these many years who looked like she was sleeping. Eat gelato at least twice a day. If you want to go to any big museum – Uffuzi, Vatican, Coliseum – pay to go on a prepaid tour with trip advisor or something. Otherwise you can can spend 1/2 your trip in lines waiting. I’ve been to Venice, Rome, Florence of the five places you want to go. The Venice water taxi is cheap and gets you around a lot of places faster than a gondola. Drink the coffee. No one has ever exaggerated food in Italy. Have an amazing trip!

  107. About 20 years ago I did a tour for only 35 yrs and younger allowed (we were continually drunk. Not that I’m complaining, we had a blast), and we visited a charming old town surrounded by walls and my group decided to go to the medieval torture museum there. All these years later, and I still think of that place. It was weirdly fascinating and disturbing. I never remembered the town (probably the drinking) and for the first time I now looked it up: San Gimignano. The town/village is worth it alone, but that museum will be right up your alley.

  108. I don’t understand why so many people are dissing Florence. It’s a great city.

    On another note, if you end up really enjoying Venice (which I suspect you will), read the Commissario Brunetti mysteries written by Donna Leon if you haven’t already. She describes Venice so perfectly in her books.

  109. Avoid Venice on the weekends. Even in the off season it is far too crowded with daytrippers. While there see the Academia, the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni for the Carpaccio painting cycles of St.s George and Jerome, the Fondazione Querini Stampalia for the art collection ant to see one of Carlo Scarpa’s most beautiful building transformations. If you can.get to a concert in Santa Maria degli Spiriti, go. The accoustics gave me goose bumps.

    And from Venice you’re a short train ride to Padua where you can see Giotto’s great Cappella degli Scrovegni. Also the Palazzo della Ragione. And I have to stop because spell check keeps changing all the Italian names I write.

    You really need more than a week but maybe this trip can be your tasting menu.

    And about gelato, find out where the locals go. It will be better and cheaper than the tourist spots. I recommend the stracciatella.

    Have a wonderful time. Best home school field trip ever!

  110. Dammit yawl that link was from some stupid article. Please delete it Jenny.
    I had a whole comment.
    When you get there find italian marble and steal a tiny peice. Thats my suggestion. Also theh mske thee best leather bags and purses

  111. The Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary is a cat shelter in Rome that makes use of the ancient ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina by providing a home within them for around 150 cats. Cats + ancient ruins = glorious!

  112. In Florence there is an awesome museum that is in 2 parts. The first half is filled with AMAZING bad taxidermy
    Like the taxidermy you get when you start exploring the “new world” and bring pelts back and hand them over to people who have never seen the animals alive to make into forms…. and it goes insanely wrong. There are rows and rows and rooms and rooms of all the old specimens that the university has gathered from all over and brought here, probably because it would be a shame to throw them out, but no one else wants them
    The 2nd half is filled with wax human figures. Back when stealing bodies was the way to train medical students in anatomy, someone got the brilliant idea to hire wax artists to make wax human figures to study anatomy. It’s like those body works exhibits, except wax. It was also AMAZING!

    I just looked it up, it is called La Specola. I think this might be right up your alley! I loved it. Ny husband (not so into anatomy) hung with me in the first half then met me at the end of the 2nd half 🙂

  113. The absolutely best thing to do in Venice is to get lost. That is when you find the real magic of Venice and the most unexpected and amazing discoveries that you would never see if you stuck to the recommended places ( which are wonderful) but nothing beats the adventure of getting lost in Venice.

  114. Darlin’ please don’t do all that; it will drive you NUTZ. Just pick one city and enjoy it. And remember, most people in Italy go on vacation for August, because it’s hot and muggy!

  115. My favorite church in Rome was designed by Michaelangelo – Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. It doesn’t look like a church from the outside (it was a Roman Bath at one time), but it is bright and beautiful on the inside. There won’t be many tourists because nobody knows it’s there. It is at Piazza della Repubblica, one block from Termini (the main rail station. Have a great trip!

  116. The clock tower tour in Venice is definitely different and so cool. Our 16 year old son really loved it and so did we. Gelateria il Doge in Venice will spoil you for gelato and ice cream forever! If you are being touristy in Rome and going to the Coliseum, take a specialty tour to get behind the scenes. We used The Roman Guy. Have a great time!

  117. You are going to LOVE Italy! We did Venice, Bologna, Siena, one day in a seaside village on the coast, and Rome. It was a lot to pack in but gave us a great taste of several different regions. My best tip is to check out We used this service in Venice and Rome. Our private tour guides were amazing, showed us off-the-beaten-path sights that you won’t get with typical guided tours, and gave great suggestions on authentic places to eat. So worth it!

  118. I was raised Catholic but am not at all as an adult but St Peters Basilica was drawing me in like nothing I have ever experienced. i just wanted to sit for mass and be there however my kidswas not ok with the embalmed remains of Pope John XXIII so we had to bail.

  119. The English Cemetery in Florence where Elizabeth Barrett Browning is interred. Also the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. Both small and easy to tour.

  120. The main thing I remember from my high school trip to Italy was that when we went on a gondola in Venice, the gondolier refused to sing to us and, order to get us to stop asking, he told us we should sing to him instead. Little did he know he had a boat full of theatre kids. We sang Oklahoma.

  121. Otzi the 5,200 year old ice man who was discovered in the alps near the border with Switzerland is in Bolzano. He has tattoos and was the most preserved body from his time. A special museum was built especially for him. Brad Pitt has a tattoo of Otzi on his forearm.

  122. Have you ever heard of the book, the Atlas Obscura? It is full of interesting and little known places all over the world. I bet there would be some great places to explore in Italy!

  123. Pompeii is amazing. go early or late to avoid biggest crowds. Wander, get lost. Most of the “naughty” art is in a Naples museum, but I consider Pompeii the most magical place I’ve ever been.
    Florence, eat at La Giostra, an amazing restaurant run by two Hapsburg prince brothers. Go to a street market. Of course, go visit David, again as early as possible.
    Venice is magical, as are Murano and the smaller cemetary island. Go down back alleys and eat chichetti in locals wine bars. La Fenice opera house is amazing.
    Rome, I’d say skip the Vatican. They’ve got a great collection, but it is so.fucking.crowded. I got claustrophobic just trying to walk around. Unless you can book an off hours tour. Eat by the Pantheon, it’s worth it. Just around the corner is the shop where all the bishops get their ceremonial garb, I’ll look up the name. The crypts outside Venice are cool, but will eat up some time. Walk everywhere you possibly can.
    Pisa is a one stop photo opp and tons of shops selling tourist crap made in China.
    If you have any interest in staying in an active nunnery or monestary, look at lodging through the website. I stayed a block away from Piazza Navona for less than $100 a night, and the nuns made breakfast for the guests.

  124. Skip Naples/Pompeii – it’s a huge time sink, and even as a history buff, I found it far less interesting & evocative than I’d expected. Focus on Florence if you’re an art buff (the Uffizi & Galleria dell’Accademia are absolute Must Sees) and Rome if you love history & ancient ruins. Venice is a lovely curiosity, but it’s not fascinating as Florence & Rome. Wherever you go, try to get up early and get into the sites before the waves of tourists hit. St. Peter’s in Rome early in the morning can be nearly deserted (and crying over the Pieta without an audience is one of my most cherished memories), but 4 hours later and you’ll be sardines in a can.

  125. In Pompei go see the whorehouse. There is a menu on the wall. The only thing to see in Naples is the archeological museum. The Romans really loved phalluses.

  126. Take a vaporetto to Giudecca and have drinks at the Bauer Palladio Hotel. It was originally a home for girls at risk of sinning, and the garden is a great place to take an introverted breath away from the crowds.
    Also, you can visit Chiesa San Giorgio Maggiore, which has amazing views from the campanile, a really cool angel that lived on the church’s dome for a long, long time, and some really cool wood carving……. worth the ride across the canal.

  127. The two towers in Bologna actually lean more than the one in Pisa and it’ll be less crowded. Plus you can get some creepy Italian tarot cards in a store in the city center. It’s the city of 3 T’s… towers, tortelloni, and titties so that’s on all their postcards and touristy stuff, which amused me greatly.

  128. In Venice go to Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni to see a the Carpaccios. It’s a small place and not part of the usual museum loop. I am fond of St. Jerome and the Lion – the lion looks about as threatening as my dimwitted Siamese and the monks are all fleeing in terror.

  129. Doge’s Palace in Venice, to learn about the “naughty” Doge whose picture is covered with black draping, and cross over to the prison where they imprisoned children.

  130. Italian here.
    First, I agree, Pisa on it’s own can be a bit much, especially if you’re going only to see the tower. Do Cinque Terre instead. But, if you REALLY want to see the tower, make it a two-fer day trip from Florence, it’s about an hour and half away and in between is an amazing walled city, Lucca (my city), that hosts the larges comic convention in Europe each year. The walls are intact and you can walk along them and the city is amazing. It’s VERY doable to do both in a day.
    Second “When in Venice, use lots of bug repellent. They have exceptionally vicious mosquitos!”
    Wrong, not end of September or October, Venice is at it’s best, still warm, but not unbearably hot and FAR fewer tourists.
    Third, “the Torture Museum in San Gimignano. It’s pretty crazy. And not far from Florence.” This is a chain, if you really want to go, there’s one in most major tourist cities (including all the you’re already planning to visit). But San Gimignano is beautiful and worth a visit.
    Fourth, “The Uffizi in Florence. It is essentially the Louvre of Italy.” YES YES YES, even if you don’t think you like art, the Birth of Venus is there (aka Venus on the half shell- and it HUGE). And so much more amazing art.

  131. Be sure to pick up the calendar of hot priests in Rome.
    Seriously, how creepy is that??

  132. At Pompeii you can see the remains of people in the exact positions they were in when they died. It’s pretty creepy. Also, lots of penises. Seems pretty much up your alley.

  133. Sign up for the Scavi tour of the ancient necropolis under St. Peter’s in Rome, including the tomb of St. Peter. Super interesting backstage pass and you get brought out inside St. Peter’s thus skipping the lines. You get escorted by a Swiss Guard to meet your guide. You must reserve as far in advance as possible.

  134. We’ve been to Italy several times and all of these suggestions are great. I highly recommend hiring a private tour guide. We used Tours by Locals in both Rome and Florence, and it was totally worth the $ for our family of four. The guide tailored our tour days to what we wanted to see… catacombs, crypts, museums, etc. He also took us to these great off the beaten path restaurants. Knew where to find bathrooms everywhere. We did a group tour in Pompeii and Venice and they were equally interesting – just at the speed of the tour guide and no personal touches like extra potty and gelato breaks along the way. Enjoy Italy and toss a coin in the Trevi so you’ll return again one day!

  135. Try to see Rosalie Lombardi. She looks as if she’s asleep. One of my best friend’s and her family were just there last month,have an AMAZING TIME! MEP

  136. In Venice, ask a gondola or water taxi driver to take you to a shop that makes cameo
    jewelry out of shells. It’s a vanishing art. I saw my first opera in the Roman Forum. They
    do stuff like that for free. Watching Aida there, sitting on a ruin while eating a lemon gelato
    next to a guy in stained painter’s coveralls eating his lunch watching an opera company
    make a grand entrance was totally surreal. Best of all, it was free.

  137. I know at least one person already mentioned Libreria Aqua Alta in Venice, but definitely don’t miss it. So many books, and so many friendly cats! Also, I agree with everyone who said eat all the gelato you can. Enjoy your trip!

  138. Go to the monastery of the Capuchin Monks in Rome and see the artwork and decorations done with the bones of the deceased brothers. They ran out of room in the catacombs (also available there for touring but not impressive since all the bones were removed) and one of the monks came up with the idea of using the bones for decoration. There is a series of chapels that are completely covered in designs made from monk bones as well as skeletons dressed in monk’s robes and other interesting displays. My favorite is the clock with no hands—it’s made of only finger bones, haha. You will probably never see another place like this—or maybe you never will WANT to see another place like this! There’s a lovely fountain and square in front of the building and a great restaurant with outdoor seating across the street. The tickets for the monastery can be purchased ahead of time so that makes it easier than fumbling around at the door. You also skip the line. I think we took a public bus to get there.

    Pompeii can be very hot—no trees of course and all stone streets and buildings hold the heat. I bought a fan and used in all over Italy to either fan my face or use it as a shade screen over my head. Of interest there is the street of brothels with a penis carved in the signs on the street.

  139. I would also echo all the suggestions to eat loads of gelato! One of my favorite memories (among Rome, Venice and Florence) was seeing an opera in the Verona arena. It was so hot and we were mid-4-week-Europe-whirlwind-vacation so we fell asleep a bit (oops), but where else can you go see an opera in a Roman amphitheater? They’d passed out little candles to the audience, and everyone lit them at the end; it was magical (not sure if they always do that, or if it was just part of this performance), and I still have that candle as a souvenir.

    Also, if you enjoy true crime stories, you might like to read “The Monster of Florence” by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi before you go; it’s about a string of murders in the 70’s and 80’s, all around Florence. I read it on the way back home, and was totally absorbed.

  140. One of my favorite places near Rome was Ostia Antica, the ruins that used to be Rome’s port city. We did a tour with a really great guide. I think I would have had a much harder time getting a sense of the place without a guide. You’re walking down ruins of streets and into houses and restaurants and businesses and baths. It’s a very large site and there weren’t a lot of other tourists there (we went in May), so you can take it in and daydream without feeling like you’re going to get run over by crowds.

    We also stumbled into the Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano, which is like a turducken of a church. The street level church was built in the Middle Ages, but there are 3 other buildings in layers underneath that have been excavated.

    Wherever you decide to go, I recommend having some time for walking around with no fixed destination. There’s so much to see that you can’t see everything, and you’re bound to run into something interesting when you wander. Hope you have a wonderful time!

  141. When in Florence, if you want to eat at a restaurant and feel like you could be in a scene from The Godfather, go to Mama Gina’s. And ask for Valentino. He’s known for singing while waiting tables. And he’s a sweet man. Salute!

  142. You have to go to La Specola in Florence — For one, almost no one goes there and you will probably have the place to yourselves, and two: weird anatomical models and lots of specimens.

    “La Specola was opened to the public in 1775 and is one of the oldest and largest scientific museums in Europe. In addition to over three and a half million animals, of which 5000 are on display, it contains the world’s largest collection of anatomical wax models and an enormous number of bones.”
    I wrote about things to do with kids, but scroll down for pics of La Specola:

  143. Just adding my vote to skip Pisa. It’s a tourist trap. The main square is lovely, but that’s all there is.

  144. Have a wonderful time!
    Rome – definitely see the Colosseum – and if you can, St Peter’s. It’s just so excessive! Go up the dome for glorious views down into the church and, outside, out over the city. I also really liked San Clemente al Laterano, which has a stunning 13th C mosaic in the apse, and is built on top of a Mithraeum.
    As I recall, St Peters and most of the other churches in Rome have a dress code which they enforce – no bare shoulders, no shorts (for men or women), and skirts / dresses must be knee length or longer . I don’t remember there being similar restrictions in the other cities but as I have an almost vampiric reaction to direct sunlight I tend to be covered up anyway, so may have overlooked it!

    Venice – if you don’t want to splurge on a gondola, you can use the Traghetti – they are basically gondolas as ferries – they are plainer to look at and carry more people, but it only costs 2 euro per person, as opposed to about 80E for half an hour for a gondola. There are various points where you can cross the Grand Canal this way.

    St Mark’s is stunning, but the queues are long. It’s worth booking to ‘skip the line’ 3E each and it lets you go the the head of the line. You book it online up to 1 minutes before you want to go in, so you can leave it until the day and see how long the queues are (assuming you have a smartphone to show the tickets on, if you need to print them then obviously you’d need to do it further in advance)

    Instead of queuing again for St Mark’s Campanile, consider getting the boat to San Giorgio Maggiore, and go up the Campanile Tower there – no queues, and great views .
    On terms of the other Island, my favourite was Torcello, which is small and has a loely church with amazing mosaics, which you can see better and without the crowds which there are in St Marks

    Pompeii is big and crowded. Herculaneum is less crowded, and then there is also the smaller Villa Oplontis which is ‘just’ one villa, but less crowded again. If you are staying in either Naples or Sorrento you can use the cicumvesuvius train to get to any of them.

    I loved Floerence, but if you want to go to the Uffizi book ahead the queues are huge and it’s very crowded.

    Siena is lovely, especially the Cathedral. I did a day trip to Pisa from Florence, by train, but I would give Pisa a miss if you are short on time,

  145. If you want weird/creepy, you absolutely must see the Capuchin crypt. I would also recommend Herculaneum instead of Pompeii, it’s a smaller site and still has organic material. Also definitely go to the Naples Archeological museum. All the good stuff removed from Pompeii and Herculaneum is there. They also have an exhibit (with an extra fee) to see all the erotic statues/frescoes from those sites – the “menu” from the brothel, lots of flying penis charms, and other graphic statues.

  146. I went to the catacombs in Rome to look at the 4000-year-old monk bones. They were cleaning the place and I got pneumonia from the 4000-year-old monk dust. Be sure to have your shots.

  147. In Naples: check out the cemetery delle fontanelle. Filled with bones and oddly peaceful.
    And for Pompeii: consider Herculaneum instead. It’s a more manageable size, less crowded and easier to imagine what was there bc more of the structure survived.
    In Venice: there’s a flooded crypt called San Zaccaria that was pretty cool. And bridge of sighs clearly can’t be missed!
    In Florence: you can see Galileo’s middle finger in the Galileo museum.
    In Rome: you can sign up for special tours, so you can go up to the top for a panoramic view, OR go down underneath and see where the gladiators and animals were held, and then walk out to the arena floor (very cool)

  148. Was in Rome last fall. Found the best pasta. They make it in the back for many of the restaurants in the city. We walked there after seeing the Vatican. The owner did speak English. I can’t seem to post an image here of their business card, but here’s their website
    I would have eaten every meal there if I could have. Have a great trip!

  149. The Scavi tour under the Vatican! You have to email to make reservations in advance — you can see the catacombs/graves from multiple religions and the original streets of Rome are under there as well. SO cool.

    Also in Venice – Acqua Alta bookstore — floating ish bookstore right on the canal.

  150. Italy was wonderful! We were in Genoa last fall and the fact that it’s history is so vast was awe inspiring. One of the most fun things my husband and I did was take a cooking class. We made pesto. Not sure what opportunity for this y’all might have but this was a highlight for us. Oh and we love touring cemeteries with a guide. You learn more of that history.

  151. Too many posts to read through, but if someone else hasnt mentioned it and you have time, go to a glass blowing display in Venice. the murano glass is FUCKING GORGEOUS! its really neat to see a guy make a horse out of lava glass in less than 3 minutes. everything else i could tote has been mentioned. EAT ALL THE GELATO!

  152. The museum of torture in Santa Italy is super cool and it’s a beautiful city.

  153. Fondaco dei Tedeschi rooftop for the view of Venice. It’s a department store near the Rialto Bridge. Free but you’ll need a reservation for busy times. We lived Pompeii but found out all the originals are in the museum in Naples. Still loved it. I came home wanting to line my driveway with reflective shells so I could steer by moonlight.

  154. If you want the totally macabre visit the The Capuchin Crypt beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome. They’ve decorated the walls with human bones and a couple of the skeletons of the highly honored monks were kept in tact, wired together and placed on their holy chairs. It’s a short visit and the nuns only require a donation to enter.

  155. If you want creepy the Galileo museum in Florence has pieces of him on display. If I remember right a middle finger, and some other bits. The rest of the museum well, it was pretty boring for me, very scientific. The Vatican museum is worth the time, especially since you exit through the Sistine Chapel. Rick Steves has a trick to get out through a side door and avoid a lot of time and crowds. Also the roof of St. Paul’s has the cheapest snack bar we saw in Italy, 1 euro for water, and the view is wonderful, we brought bread and cheese bought water and has lunch. Another creepy bit, the number of Vespa vrs car wrecks we saw in Rome.

  156. I agree…eat the gelato everyday… Since time is an issue:…Do Herculaneum instead of Pompei…..far less crowded….same cool stuff. Skip Pisa….In Florence….vespers at San Miniato al Monte…..stay for the sunset……Pay the extra fee and sign up in advance for the early morning breakfast tour of the Vatican….worth every penny to not have to view everything with hordes of people…. do the Coliseum with a tour guide to skip the huge que for tickets. They will give you a good overview of it then you are free to explore longer on your own and also have admission to the Forum next door. ….or do the wacky Segway tour of Rome ….There is no way to see everything, so just soak in and enjoy what you do get to visit…..Gives you a good excuse to come back 😎

  157. Skip Pisa & Florence
    Venice is a must see, but unfortunately buried with tourists…
    If you bother to go south, I think Hercolaneum is the better choice + please take some time to visit Amalfi, Positano or capri. The Amalfi coast is one of the most beautiful coast lines in the world, by car or boat…

    Have a nice trip, whatever you decide, it will be a wonderful experience!!!

  158. I’m envious! If you’re in or near Venice/Murano, don’t pass up the chance to watch glassblowing.

  159. Skip Pisa. All there is to see is the tower. Once you’ve seen it, that’s it. In Florence, if you can manage to go up the dump do, the view of red rooves over the city is iconic and unforgettable. Rome – wander, wander, wander. Same for Venice. The back streets are always more fascinating than the tourist attractions.

  160. Don’t drive. Italians are manic drivers. Their trains are really good though. You can get between Rome/Florence and Venice easily that way.
    The Capuchin crypt in Rome is made for you. The decorations are all skeletons of dead monks. Enough said.

  161. My favorite day in Italy was wandering aimlessly with my husband around Venice. So many unexpected stores, stopping for espresso every so often, gelato, watching boats. Such a great place to get lost in.

  162. Rome and Pompeii is more than enough to fill a week (you can get a train down to Naples, see the museum there that has all the artifacts from the site, then a bus out to the ruins as a day trip from Rome. Another cool day trip is the bus form Rome up to Hadrian’s villa, maybe Trivoli for the fountains. And, yes, gelato is a MUST for daily sustenance!!!! My fear is by trying to do too many cities in a week, you waste too much time traveling between sites.

    Oh,and book Vatican tickets ahead of time. Hubby and youngest of urs went last summer and it was crowded as heck. Hubby had I had gone decades before (BC – Before Children) and it was not near as bad as it is now, crowd-wise.

    Eat gelato for me, too, btw. Did I mention daily??? 😉

  163. In case it was missed it’s a night tour/ghost walk in Rome. Totally awesome and you get to walk across the bridge of sighs at night with Vatican City all lit up. Both creepy and beautiful

  164. If you don’t go anywhere else, go to Rome and Florence, for the history — tons of it!!! — and the art — tons of it!!!. Pompeii is very doable, and fascinating!

    Hope you have a wonderful time! Traveling mercies!

  165. Here’s the thing …. If you find good supportive walking shoes that actually look cute with dresses then I need you to write a whole post about that. I have a France and Italy trip in my future and right now it’s going to be some ugly American shit with tennis shoes and dresses because we’ll be walking for miles and it will be hot as Satan’s taint.

  166. There are lots of interesting things to see in Florence – La Specola is a fascinating museum full of taxidermy animals and wax models of human body parts! It sounds like it’s kind of made for you. The Galileo museum is also really interesting – it has Galileo’s preserved middle finger!

  167. Please, for the love of all things, go to Vivoli gelateria in Florence. It is, without exaggeration, the very best gelato in the world. It is just behind the Duomo. 🙂

    Also, try to take a cooking class while you are there. We’ve done it twice and it was wonderful.

  168. Eat. All. The. Gelato.
    Venice: get lost (the only way to really see Venice), buy an artisan paper mask, ride the gondolas.
    Florence: watch glassblowing, check out the side room in the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the most beautiful burial statues ever (wave at David on your way)
    Capri: take a boat ride into the caves (the water in there glows the most beautiful shade of blue you’ll ever see)
    Pompeii: walk the city ruins (WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES)

  169. I lived in Italy for four years. I agree with everyone who says to skip Pisa.

    In Rome, visit the Vatican, the pantheon, the baroque church next to it (look up “wedding cake church Rome”), the cappuccini crypt, and Hadrian’s tomb.

    Orvieto, as others have said, is AMAZING. There’s a magic shop in the center. You would adore it.

    In Venice, my favorite city, skip the bridge of sighs and go to the Rialto bridge instead. Basilica dei Frari Is the best church in Venice, in my opinion. It costs €3 and has some stunning art inside. If you want creepy, go see the mummy of Santa Lucia. She’s in the church next to the casino. Gondolas are overrated and overpriced. A vaporetto is a water bus. It’s far more affordable and not difficult to ride. A bit of research before you go will help you figure out how.

    Oh! And in Venice! The Indiana Jones “library”. It’s actually a church called chiesa san Barnaba. It’s been hosting an interactive DaVinci exhibit inside for a long time. It’s rad. And nearby the church is ponte dei pugni, the bridge of fists. They used to host street brawls on it, which is hilarious because the bridge is tiny.

    Wherever you go will be magical, because Italy is a dream. My biggest advice for you is not to do everything. Pick one city, maybe two, and get lost in it for a few days. Eat everything, and if zucchini blossoms are on the menu, stuffed, steamed, or fried, try them.

    I’m so excited for you!

  170. I’d skip Pisa and go to Naples instead, board a boat for Capri and spend the day there. Also, Siena is amazing – you can visit St. Catherine’s finger and they have a wild horse race every year called the Palio where people ride horses through the small medieval city.

  171. There is a church in Rome that is covered (inside???) with bones. Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. Seeing that church is on my bucket list.

    In Florence we climbed to the top of the Bell tower AND to the top of the dome. Confining and difficult, but I can talk myself through anything. The Baptistry across from the main church has an incredible ceiling which includes a frightening devil image.

    The markets are cool. There are oddities everywhere, some not obvious. When you realize that arch or road you traveled under is part of the ancient aquaduct system. The Lion’s mouth sculptures that are to tell if you are a liar – Bocca Della verità – The mouth of truth – test it if you dare.

    Touch the famous Bronze Boar. The Piazza del Mercato Nuovo in Florence in the Market for luck. The big-headed white guy statue in Florence in the Piazza Della Signoria. Ugly as all get out. Get a ticket to see The David in Florence. No matter how many copies are out there, including in the Piazza Della Signoria, or in Las Vegas, the original is mind-blowing.

    I so wish I could go back. Oh, crowds are everywhere. Keep valuables extra safe. Annoying street merchants are everywhere. Beggars sit at entrances to every church.

    Pompeii is wonderful, but unless you have a pressing need to buy a phallus sculpture, the markets there are tacky.

    Churches have art everywhere. Ceilings included. Even the floors are artistic.

    If going to Sistine Chapel, get -if possible – a skip the line ticket for early in the day. It’s a long long line that can’t be avoided once you are inside the building. Go early to avoid the cruise ship crowds.

  172. The behind-the-scenes tour of the Doge’s Palace, in Venice, to see how Casanova escaped. The Bridge of Sighs is underwhelming. Don’t bother. Buy all your tickets in advance to avoid the lines! The Uffizi Gallery also has a behind-the-scenes tour that leads you through the secret passage to the Pitti Palace. Herculaneum is more interesting than Pompeii and better preserved. Either is worth a visit.

  173. If you love fountains, Villa D’Este in Tivoli is amazing.

    I agree with everyone else to skip Pisa. Instead, I recommend Orvieto for the funincular or elevators to get there, plus underground tour. And we didn’t, but apparently you can climb down a huge old well. Lovely little town!

    If you do visit Florence (I liked it), make sure you climb the inside of the cathedral dome – and make sure you notice the optical illusion of the floor.

    The artworks on the route to the Sistine Chapel were stunning but so were the crowds. I reckon the route was at least an hour of shuffling along, often shoulder to shoulder with people. Once you started the route, you couldn’t get out or go back. I found that a bit freaky. Sounds like the Friday night tours may be better.

    Wherever possible, get skip-the-queue tickets, or at least buy your tickets online in advance.

  174. Venice has a cemetery island where everyone from Venice and the other islands (Merono, Berono, etc) are buried. The vaporetto stops there. When I went, my friend and I pretty much had the entire island to ourselves.

    That is the keyhole that have been mentioned before.

    Also, if you go and visit the vatican, might want to bring a handheld mirror. The ceilings are the best part, but you really start feeling your neck if you keep looking up all the time.
    One of the other, smaller churches in Rome has a mirror installed to better look at their ceilingpaintings and when I saw that I was sorry I didn’t bring one for the vatican.

    Chiesa del Gesu has the largest ball of lapis lazuli, in a statue that sits on top of a moving painting.

    Something I didn’t get to do, but is still on my wishlist: walk or bike the via appia antica.
    On sunday cars aren’t allowed so that is the recommended day!

    You might want to check if the starlings are going to be there if you are:
    If they are there: Bring umbrella’s !! bird poop everywhere!

    Wherever possible, get skip-the-queue tickets, or at least buy your tickets online in advance.
    I second this, we got online tickets for the vatican and a Roma pass which allowed us to skip the lines at the colloseum. Definitely recommend! Saves a lot of waiting in lines, some of which are in the full sun!

  176. Don’t eat close to Tourist Attractions. For the best food: try to find places where construction workers will eat.
    I absolutely love Lucca and Siena, see if you can fit them in while in Tuscany!
    Your only “outlier”is Venice, in regards of making things fit.

  177. remember to take a moment in Venice in the evening to go outside and listen. the (non) sound of that city is wonderful! (and for someone who doesn’t travel much, you sure seem to get around!)

  178. Here’s a link to a video I saw on CBS Sunday Morning about a place called Tenuta Vannulo. They treat their buffaloes like royalty to get the best mozzarella cheese from them. They’re so nice to their animals that I would totally go visit if I ever went to Italy! Plus you can eat their mozzarella!

  179. The Capuchin catacombs in Rome – Pompeii is a day trip south of Rome and fascinating if you can manage it.

  180. Please, as a longtime travel expert and traveler, I recommend that you do not try to do all those destinations in a week. Take a month, … or pare it down to Florence and Venice. Period. Save Roma for another trip, and add in Capri.

  181. I’ve been to Rome and Florence and the highlights for me were a walking food/history tour in Rome (so much delicious pasta, meat, cheese, and gelato), Santa Maria in Trastevere (Rome), The Duomo in Florence, seeing the statue of David at Galleria Dell’Accademia (Florence), and seeing Donatello’s Mary Magdalene at Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Florence). Enjoy!!

  182. gelato. I’ve only been to Venice, but knowing you probably you should hit up the island of San Michele(it’s the burial island in the lagoon) I do like Florian’s for coffee. Italy is one of the few places I drink coffee. Cross as many bridges in Venice as you can. There are 3 that cross the grand canal, Rialto, Accademia and Scalzi. Ride the vaporetto down the grand canal.

  183. Ok, this is important! When you go to Pisa, PASS ON THE TOWER and visit the cemetery in its shadow instead! I can’t stress this enough. Look for the skull tiles on the ground, that’s where the saints are buried. It’s truly amazing

  184. We go to Italy twice a year as our daughter married an Italian and they own a gastropub outside of Rome in Bracciano. If the crowds in Rome get crazy, visit the Protestant Cemetary, the Monti neighborhood or Villa Borghese park. Many have mentioned Orvieto, which is a wonderful day trip from Rome. The absolute best gelato is at Otaleg (gelato spelled backwards) in Trastevere. All handmade in small batches onsite, which is unusual in Rome where so many shops sell mass-produced gelato. Have fun!

  185. So much awesomeness, so little time! But you guys booked through Japan and had a blast, so: Florence’s history museum and of course, David; Capucine crypt and the underground cemetery in the Vatican (i think you have to ask for tix in advance) in Rome as well as the place with the cats; ANYTHING in Pompeii; anything in Venice (the smell this time of year might surprise you), and skip Pisa. Have a great trip!

  186. Italia is my favorite place to be. In Rome, the Trevi fountain, although a huge tourist attraction, is so beautiful. While there, look for the Rome under Rome. I accidentally found this hole in the street that revealed another whole Rome! I didn’t have time to try and read the plaque, but it is definitely a thing, there were sculptures down there. It was in the area near Piazza Navone, a cool place to grab a bite.

    In Florence, don’t miss Michelangelo’s David, and the hall with other sculptures he didn’t finish as well as his death mask. Every inch of every wall on the Pitti Palace was covered in art. It was fascinating. There is also an armor museum which I heard is cool. There is a shop called Signum you might dig, it’s a Stationary shop, I went both times I was there to pick up goodies. Around Florence find an agrotourism spot for dinner. They are farms that have restaurants and they are idyllic, delicious and fun.

    Two towns in the Tuscany region we stopped for a lunch and a stroll were Pienza and Monterggioni. Both walled tiny cities, Montegiorrni had a cheezy armore museum, and you could pay a couple euros to walk on the top of the wall around the city. Pienza is world renowned for it’s pecorino cheese. The views from both of these towns are picture-perfect.

    Go to Pompeii for sure, it was a bucket list item for me, and didn’t disappoint. The dicks carved in the streets made me smile. But, I have heard Herculaneum is also superb and less touristy. Do both! There is also Museo Universitario delle Scienze e delle Arti, a human specimen museum in Naples which is right there. Also near Pompeii, Capri (best arancini I’ve ever had), Sorrento (best pizza I’ve ever had), and Positano. All gorgeous.

    Pisa, meh. It’s a tower that leans, the Baptistry there is much more beautiful. I would have skipped it.

    Venice has these tiny winding alleys that have great little shops. If you are standing looking at the clock tower, to the right in an alley is the coolest mask shop ever, but if you go to the area around the Armory (venice is shaped like a fish, it’s near the tail, pass the Bridge of sighs, walk down the waterfront away from St.Marcs square), there are local artist shops and where local people live, it’s much more subdued and cool. Of course take a gondola ride and book one that sings to you.

    There is also a cool thing I couldn’t talk my family into doing, you can book a dinner with a local family, they cook for you, or let you cook with them, and it looked fabulous. I think it’s called Cesarene?

    Also, I know everyone says get gelato, okay, gelato is yummy. But do not miss having a Granita. An orange granita. I could have had one every single day. It’s a slushie thing, but their oranges are soo smooth.

    Finally, hit up a truck stop.(Autogrils) Some of the best food I swear, plus great souvenirs.

    I can always come along as your tour organizer. 😉

  187. Padova (Padua) is a 30 minute train ride from Venice. It’s been a college town for 800 years and has a cool, young vibe. St. Anthony’s cathedral is very beautiful but also has displayed his preserved TONGUE and jaw bone! You can also tour the palazzo del Bo and the Surgical Theater of Padova, where many human dissections occurred over hundreds of years.

  188. Okay, I can’t help with travel tips, but somebody said Poveglia and I have to tell you my story about that. When my kids were about 13 and 10 we watched the “31 Nights of Halloween” on TV and this one show was a reality type thing about people spending the night in scary places. And they went to Poveglia, which the host hyped up for about half the show as “so haunted and terrifying you can’t even go there, but you’re going there.” So finally they get on a ferry at dusk and they go there…and there is this blonde in a tight dress standing on the dock waiting for them. And my son, the 10-year-old, stopped being scared to watch and started laughing after I blurted out, “Wait – it’s so scary that no one can stay there? But Tour Guide Barbie is there?!”

  189. La Specola, in Florence. It’s a natural history museum dating back to the 1700s and is filled with creepy wax statues of animals and humans, plus some taxidermy. Some animals in the collection are actually extinct.

  190. Venice: San Geremia church has the corpse of Saint Lucy, which is worth a visit. Scratched into the wall beside the entrance to the civil hospital in Campo SS Giovanni e Paolo is a depiction of a matricide. Santa Maria dei Miracoli & San Giorgio Maggiore are particularly beautiful churches. Have a drink in the Danieli bar. Rome: Santa Maria della Vittoria church has Bernini’s The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa as well as Saint Victoria’s ‘incorrupt’ body. San Clemente church has a mithraeum below it (not for the claustrophobic), while San Martino ai Monti has a titulus. There is another cat sanctuary at the Protestant Cemetery, which also contains Keats’s & Shelley’s graves.

  191. I would skip Pisa. Not worth the trip. Venice yes. Florence above all. Rome no. Sienna yes. Tuscany I’m going again for October..

  192. This makes me think of an article (in English) I read shortly after arriving in Italy about an American on a trip who spoke no Italian but what they knew from operas (and apparently they knew a lot of operas). There was some mix-up with their rooms and when they went to complain to the owner of the hotel all they could come out with was from Aida (?) “This room is like a tomb.” Apparently they got a new room quickly. They also has some ‘run-in’ with the police I don’t remember anything except when they took the person to the station, the American declared, in Italian from I don’t know which opera, “I am unhappy and I am going to throw myself from the Ponte Vecchio.” (Very loose translation as my memory is gone) Well, the police very quickly gave the person back their passport and patted their shoulder to reassure them that everything was okay and let them go. So if you know any bits of opera???? The arts can be helpful.

  193. I was recently in venice. The bridge of sighs can be seen from outside but I went on a secret chambers tour on the Doge Palace, which I recommend, and you will be able to cross it and also see where Cassanova was held.

  194. I would visit anywhere that catches your eye and not worry about hitting any of the super popular places, but definitely eat lots and lots of gelato!

  195. Jenny, I lived in Italy on and off for years….try not to do the usual tourist things BUT Pompei AND Ercolana are two places NOT to be missed…lots of creepy stuff there and you can let your imagination run wild thinking about the horrible way these poor people died. In Rome of course go to the Colliseo *Colluseum, Another creepy place where you can literally imagine the blood of people spilled in there to the joy of those creepy Romans….The Bridge of Sighs is kinda overrated as far as I’m concerned…you must treat yourself to a train ride to anywhere, very interesting. Oh and BTW pickpockets ABOUND there so hold on to your stuff. I mean it!

  196. Just being in Italy is enough. All you have to do is look around. But one of my favorite stops was Burano – short boat ride from Venice. You may not have time, but it had a lot of cute little shops. Enjoy!

  197. One of my favorite creepy and amazing things to see in Italy is Bomarzo, the park of the monsters. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else in the world (although Pompeii and Venice are also like that – Venice, not so creepy — Pompeii, be sure to ask to see the brothels – the artwork is … notable). And don’t forget you’ll be around some of the best food in the world! Have a blast!

  198. PISA? I highly recommend the old cemetery at Pisa — it’s on Cathedral Square, so you can go there while others are crazypants enough to climb the tower. (I gave up when I realized that at every level you have to go partway around the OUTSIDE of the building.) Beautifully creepy sarcophogi and tombstone-floors. The Jewish cemetery is also worth a visit if you have the time, but it’s admittedly not as close.
    Please also consider going into the cathedral’s baptistry. This is where where Galilleo developed the theory of the pendulum. There’s a chandelier that would be lit every day for mass — and he realized that the shorter the rope, the faster it swung.
    Consider bringing “Galileo’s Daughter” along for the airplane ride. 🙂

  199. The website ate my answer. So a short version:
    At Pisa, feel free to skip the terrifying tower climb (you have to go OUTSIDE to get between levels). Replace it with the old cemetery — Il Camposanto Monumentale, with Roman sarcophogi & in-floor tombs (including a memorable plague-era skull&crossbones). That is RIGHT on the edge of Cathedral Square so very convenient; if you have extra time, consider the jewish cemetery too.
    And if you’ve loved “Galileo’s Daughter”, make a point of going through the cathedral’s baptistry — that is where Galileo developed the theory of the pendulum. He attended mass there, and noticed that the chandelier swung faster when it was higher up, slower when higher up….because the mass was always at the same speed, and the chandelier swing was not.
    As for Rome, just be prepared for a modern industrialized city so you’re not as disappointed as I was — the New Yorker seeing an Italian equivalent instead of “the grandeur that was Rome”. Ben Hur’s Circus Maximus is a flat field, for example.
    If you go to see Michaelangelo’s David, allow a bit of time to visit his four “unfinished” sculptures in the hall leading into his dome. They knocked me for a loop — the way he took parts of the bodies to complete before roughing out the marble makes it feel like the prisoners are breaking out of the blocks of stone. It’s an extremely modern effect.

  200. For Pompeii, take the train down there. Naples is entertaining but I’d just head to Pompeii and Herculaneum. I actually like Herculaneum better as it is all preserved after the volcano created a huge mid slide and preserved it all. Pompeii is also where Cameos come from. Jewelry! I LOVE Sorrento and Positano.
    If you’re doing Pisa, Florence is right there and you can see David’s small woowoo.
    Rome, I really like the tour of the catacombs.

  201. Hi Jenny! I’m a little late to the comments on this one but wanted to mention — I will be on vacation in Italy this month too! I’ll be in Florence and Cinque Terre. I booked a private walking tour on Sept 16th with a Florence tour guide/historian who came highly recommended. It’s just me on the walking tour, and if you guys are in Florence that afternoon and want to join me, you are very welcome! (I’m a lawyer from Boston and have been reading your blog and books for years — happy to connect with you separately if you have any interest.) It’s a walking tour of main historical sites and Romanesque churches, information about all of the art and architecture, history, etc. Please contact me if you’re in Florence then and would like to join!

  202. THE STIBBERT!!!! This is a very cool private museum in Florence, outside of the tourist area and off the beaten track, and was hands down our favorite thing about Florence.

    Takes about 2-3 hours to see, generally no line.

  203. One thing you should NOT DO is sit on the Spanish Steps. There’s a fine for doing so

  204. You must go to Assisi and visit St. Clare. She is in a glass coffin in a little church there.

  205. Florence is amazing – so much to see and do! And it’s not as crazy busy as Rome or Venice. Lots of famous stuff in Galleria dell’Accademia. And all the Medici museums and castles and palaces. And my favorite, the Porcelain Museum in the Boboli Gardens!

  206. Heck – Pompeii covers so many of the odd and creepy factors, I’d be happy with that alone. But yes, Assisi! Also, have you read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston? That should get you in the mood for your trip!

  207. I loved the catacombs of Rome. Right outside the city. You can take a bus, but I would spring for a cab.

  208. I believe someone already mentioned Lido Island, Venice. What a wonderful place! The Adriatic on one side, the lagoon on the other. Not too touristy at all. Much better than staying directly in Venice. I loved Siena, Assisi – well all of it really. Just be warned, once you go you cannot forget it.

  209. Oh, and I also agree on the Amalfi Coast stuff. Positano – wow! Very touristy but so worth it.

  210. My friend that lived in Italy is obsessed with the Bridge of Sighs so I’m glad that’s on your list.

  211. I live near Pisa, I think the most creepy /interesting place around here is the Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Università di Pisa in the town of Calci. I have never, ever, seen such a huge and historical collection of taxidermy. The pictures online do not do it justice! It’s an entire villa stuffed with… stuffed animals. Extensive collections from old families, as well as university acquisitions. I especially like the works from the time when the taxidermists hadn’t necessarily ever actually seen the animal they stuffed, some of those creations are just so off the mark. It’s not in Pisa, but it’s in a town close by (20 minutes by car). At least a few hours of fun 🙂

  212. Food. Eat all the food. Ask the waitress/waiter to bring you whatever the chef LOVES to make. And gelato. OMG. Lemon gelato.

  213. So excited for you all, you’re going to have an amazing time! I sent an email to you with an attachment about recommendations for Florence. I studied abroad in Florence for four months and after raving about numerous things I decided to put everything in one word document that I could send to people easily. Hope you all have an incredible adventure!

  214. Go to Rick Steves website and you can download walking tours of several Italian cities. We put them on mini-mp3 players and used them to tour. Also, eat gelato, every day, every opportunity.

  215. Skip the Leaning Tower…… Too touristy – and knowing your luck – it would probably fall and then you would be like Victor – did you bring any superglue? and then the whole international incident…. Best to leave that to some other American.

    Go to some Italian catacombs.

  216. Even if you’re as claustrophobic as I am (Very!), you must climb up to the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica. The view is divine.

  217. If you’re able to, actually stay overnight in Venice for at least one night. It’s a whole different city after all the cruise ship tourists leave. It’s so hard to explain, but it’s the most delicious, secretive feeling. You feel like there’s a party going on somewhere at the heart of the maze if you can just find it…

  218. Jenny!!! Whoop so excited for you!!! Remember to have coins with you to go to public restrooms. The last time I was in Italy 13 years ago we had to pay to use public facilities. Hopefully that has changed but just in case it hasn’t always have coins on you!

    I’ve been dreaming about going to the restaurant Trattoria da Romano on the island of Burano in Venice.
    I didn’t get there and I wish I had (I’m kind of a foodie). It’s apparently pretty pricey, but their seafood risotto is legendary and practically otherworldly according to Bourdain when he went. Keith Richards goes there when he’s in Venice, and it was once a restaurant darling for local artists (some famous/long dead) writers, etc. Incredibly fine lace also used to be produced there but that tradition has begun to dwindle over time. Here is the Venice episode if you want check it out! Also make sure you buy some Venetian glass-it is truly stunning but very fragile! I had a Venetian glass necklace that broke when I brought it home-maybe pack bubble wrap LOL. Everyone else on here has Italy super covered!

  219. Just went this year for the first time. Must do’s from our trip: climbing the to the top of the Basilica dome at the Vatican, the Domus Aurea (Nero’s palace), which is a live archaeology site, and a private guide at Herculaneum and Pompeii.

  220. In Venice your can stay off the main touristy path safely. There are amazing little weird shops off the main street. And I recommend seeing the Bridge of Sighs from the canal side (fewer people).

  221. In St. Peter’s in Vatican City you get to see some dead Pope’s in glass coffins. And in Rome you must tour the Coliseum with a guide who can tell you all about the “games” that were held there, you can actually see all the cells/rooms that the animals, gladiators & doomed souls were kept in under the floor of the coliseum.

  222. It’s probably been said before but: Pizza and Gelato. Grab a piece of pizza from those random small windows throughout the cities, I was so impressed! Spend a day sampling gelato, sooo good! Enjoy your trip 🙂

  223. Jenny, you will love Italy–just beware of the men that will try to pinch your boobs. I still remember the little old ladies cheering when I decked a man who had just pinched me. Wear e-Shakti and swish thru Italy! with pockets!

  224. I’m a Latin teacher and travel to Italy (Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Rome) every other year. Two things to see: if you can make it to Naples while near Pompeii, the Gabinetto Segreto in the National Archaeological Museum (lots of flying penis lamps and other phallic miscellany taken from towns destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79) and the Big Baby Hercules in the Capitoline Museum in Rome–a massive statue that is exactly what it sounds like and will haunt your dreams. The Capitoline Museum is great in general, and you get an amazing view of the Forum Romanum from the Tabularium (where you can also see the funerary inscription for Agrippina the Elder, a.k.a., Caligula’s mom!).

  225. Burano (catch a water bus from Venice) to see all the pretty painted houses. Apparently they are all different so when the men headed home drunk they knew which place was theirs!

  226. Venice is beautiful and fun to wander. The island of Murano (take a ferry from Venice), where they blow glass all the time, is neat but perhaps not a must see? They do glassblowing demonstrations which are cool, but you could watch “Blown Away” on Netflix and that’s pretty cool as well. Have a fabulous trip! Ride trains! Make Hailey take lots of notes so she can write a report when you all are home.

  227. I was lucky enough to see Pompeii last fall with some friends. OMG, after reading about it for decades, it was amazing to see in person. Take the guided tour. Look for the skeletons in the bedroom of the House of Menander. See the menu pictures at the Lupanare. (I’ll have that one, there.) Try the limoncello at the little gift shop outside the entrance. It’s really good.

  228. It’s already been said, but skip Pisa. The only thing to note is the leaning tower and there is not much to do around there. We went on a jam packed trip and regretted the time spent there and wished we had more time anywhere else. In Florence I highly recommend going to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset. We brought a bottle of wine, cheese, and crackers with us and found a spot to enjoy amazing views of the city and the beautiful sunset.

  229. I went to Italy years ago as part of a college summer program for 6 weeks. Definitely look for the brothel in Pompeii with the frescos of dudes with huge dicks on the walls. If you go to the Vatican, definitely visit the Sistine Chapel. Take binoculars, or you won’t be able to tell much about the paintings since the ceiling is quite high and the figures painted there appear small. We didn’t do a lot of weird stuff, so I haven’t got any recommendations for those sorts of things. Eat lots of gelato. (It’s so good!) Have fun!

  230. Pisa is a quick take a picture and get out stop, but while you’re in that direction you can check out Lucca. It’s one of the few towns that has their complete wall around the city in tact and you can rent bikes and ride around the town on top of it. Also, it’s famous for opera and is the home of Puccini.

  231. Siena is amazing – like something out of time and as a bonus, you can see St. Catherine’s severed head.

    Also, we took a conversational Italian class before we went which was fun. The best thing I learned in that class was this phrase: “Sei molto gentile” (pronounced: say MOLE-toe gin-TEAL-ay) It means “you are very kind,” and every single Italian we said it too was completely charmed by us using the phrase even though we said it with our hick American southern accents. I highly recommend it.

    Finally, if you are planning on seeing the David (at the Academia) and the Uffizi museum in Florence. make sure you get tickets well in advance of the trip. Also, if you have time the Profumo Farmaceutica si Santa Maria Novella (perfumers to Catherine de Medici) is amazing. (the fragrance of herbs and botanicals there is VERY strong), so skip this if you are sensitive to that and just order some of their lavender bath products online instead.
    They are sublime).

  232. One more tip. In Rome, we hired a private driver/tour guide (your hotel can make a recommendation), and it was a great way to see a lot in a short amount of time. Don’t know if you have 2 days in Rome, but the Vatican alone is a full day excursion. We did one day there and then one day with the tour guide.

  233. My favorite is the Capuchin Crypt in Rome. You will love it!

    If you are renting a car please be aware that tailgating is an art form. My husband loved driving in Italy because it was so aggressive.
    Also, if you stop at any rest stops on the highway please always leave one person with the car or you will come back to an empty vehicle.

  234. IF you go to the vatican (meh), book the early morning before it opens tour so you aren’t surrounded by insane masses of people.

    Eat pizza every day. You won’t regret that.

  235. In Padua (not far on the train from Venice) they have St Anthony’s jawbone in a gold monstrance, and his tongue (poking upwards) and adenoids displayed in two others. The postcards are brilliant. And then you can go and see the Giottos.. In Mantua there is a giant mural of a man peeing a stream of wool (again, brilliant postcards).

  236. I’m not sure if it still exists, but in 2009 my roommate and I found a museum in Rome made out of only human remains. It was creepy and cool at the same time. Also it was free to enter.

  237. Did Rome, Florence and Venice a few years back. Venice was easily my least favorite, but it’s probably a must see at least once.. Florence was great, lots of alleyways to wander down, shops to check out. Has a great vibe. You can do a day trip to Pisa from Florence on the train. Rome has history everywhere…just walk down the street and you’ll see ruins off to the side…

  238. Italy does weird well, you’ll love it. This bookstore is a bit of a trick to find, but it’s great: The Libreria Acqua Alta Bookstore in Venice. Also, where Pompeii is good, Herculaneum is better and far less crowded.

  239. Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini – in Rome, awesome!!!! Lots and lots of bones.

  240. We lived in Naples for 3 years. The BEST PIZZA is in Naples. Also – Pompeii is really far out. I always recommend that people go to Herculaneum instead. (Erclano) It is smaller, and more well preserved than Pompeii.

  241. I’d skip Pisa and spend all my time in Venice and Florence. The old walled city of Genoa is also awesome.

  242. Lucky family! Visit the brothel in Pompeii. Finding your way is easy; just follow the penis carvings in the stones. In Venice, shop at the $10 stores. We happened into a store during their $8 sale, everything was only 8 bucks! Great source for authentic Italian clothes, shoes etc.
    And yes visiting all those cities is doable. In 8 days we visited them all and threw in Sorrento and the Isle of Capri, too.

  243. Incorruptible saints. St.Catherine of Siena’s head and thumb are in Siena. Most of her body is in Rome. You can find other bodily relics in various churches & cathedrals.

  244. Argh hit send too soon.
    Consider if you can hit Assisi… they built a cathedral around St.Francis”s little stone chapel in the woods. I’m not Catholic and I found it very moving anyway.

  245. Come il Latte for gelato – it’s amazinggggg.
    Also the little islands off of Venice (you can get the ferry over) are colourful and have glass blowing and are just generally quite pretty. Venice is crazy busy but when you get off the main walkways but wander down the little streets and it’s much quieter and is suitably adorable.

    Hope you all have the best time!

  246. If you happen to be flying in/out of London on your way to/from Italy and you have a few hours layover, the Body Worlds exhibit is cool as all get out. If you’ve never experienced one, I can’t recommend it enough (it’s displays of human anatomy preserved in plastic).

  247. i lived in napoli italia for 3 years, 2007 to 2010. saw the entire country, obviously lots of roma and napoli. my 2 cents. skip pisa (boring) and i was disappointed with pompei. after a year or so, i spent every free weekend in roma. if there is 1 THING you MUST do is climb to the top of the dome at st. peters. this has nothing to do with religion but rather, the funniest, (climbing black, stone, spiral, narrow, stairway with you new best friend’s butt in your face. i don’t know if it was from the lack of oxygen or what but when you emerge and the sight you see. it’s THE most stunning moment of my life (and i lived around the world for over 30 years.) a funny thing. again at st. peters. at 1200 noon on sunday, the papal spuare in fairly busy but in a matter of minutes, it swells of 10s of thousands of people. the come for the papal blessing at 12:15. again, not about religion but instead, he greats the crowd in about 10 languages and when that language is spoken, it like the WAVE at a massive sporting event. but it happen 10 times in a matter of 5 minutes. for me it represented the unity of people. no matter where we are from, we are all part of one big family. Love to you and yours, Carla

  248. Italy is the greatest place in the world! You will have a wonderful time and there are lots of fabulously creepy and eerie things to see (my daughter is 16 and loves the creepy element). Note that lots of churches have saints’ relics (fingers, skulls, etc.).
    Rome: the catacombs along the Appian Way; the Capuchin church with decoratively arranged bones; the museo delle anime del purgatorio (museum of lost souls–lots of “evidence” of ghosts, etc.); the Mamertine prison (really fascinating, though the tours have a distinctly Christian bent nowadays); and yes, the fabulous cat sanctuary near Caesar’s murder spot. You can also see the location where Giordano Bruni was burned in Campo de’ Fiori. For more serious and recent tragedies, there are WWII sites: you can still see holes from machine gun fire in the walls of via Rasella (Nazi retribution after a partisan attack), and you can visit the caves where Italians were rounded up and killed by Nazis afterwards (the memorial is very moving). There’s also a POW prison that is fascinating (prisoners’ graffiti on the walls, etc.)
    Florence: see where Savanarola was burned in Piazza della Signoria; visit Santa Reparata under the Duomo (sadly not as dark and creepy as it was when I was a child, but still…); see Galileo’s finger in the science museum. This spring we loved ducking into narrow medieval alleys and wondering who had been stabbed there centuries ago, before streetlights (we called them “murder alleys”). Also read about the Black Death and imagine living in Florence during that era (The Scribe of Siena talks a bit about Florentine/Sienese politics and the effects of the plague).
    Pompeii: it’s beautiful and tragic. Bring Pliny’s the Younger’s eyewitness reports and read them aloud while walking the streets. Be sure to see the casts of the volcano’s victims, some clutching loved ones as they died (the dog is especially tragic). Climb Vesuvius if you have time.
    San Gimignano is an incredibly beautiful hill town with a relatively horrific Museum of Torture.
    Eat, wander, enjoy! Sounds like you will have a quick and busy trip. If you need food recommendations, just ask!

  249. Also, we are big fans of Hostaria Costanza in Rome. Terrific food, lovely old-school service, and best of all the restaurant is in the ruins of the Theater of Pompey! You can make a reservation in advance (be sure to request to be seated in the ancient room).

  250. You MUST see The David when you’re in Florence! Magnificent and the only piece of artwork to ever bring me to tears. You won’t be sorry.

  251. I could second or third or even 85th all of the comments about Rome and skipping The smaller towns unless you just absolutely feel like you need to go. Pompeii and the larger cities take a lot more time than you expect. I spent a month and feel like I missed stuff still (to be fair, I have a masters in art so I’m always going to feel that way probably). I’d say figure out how many days you’re in each place and make a list of the top places you want to see there. Plan for one a day max. The rest of the time just explore. Also, if you can avoid it, don’t get the tourist lunch special. It’s over priced and often Americanized. With that said. I love Angelico’s al Fiore near the Colosseum and Roman Forum because it’s great food, good prices, and you can literally see the forum and ruins from the outdoor seating. I’m a fan of the pizza Norcina and recreate it as best as I can at home regularly. Have so much fun!!

  252. BURANO.
    It’s a little island a stones throw from venice and all the houses are brightly painted and its basically an island full of creepy-but-stunning handmade dolls and masks.
    Its totally beautiful and a little strange AND there’s ice cream.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: