Last fall I got to take my sister to Italy on a whirlwind trip that was part reconnaissance and part *must see* spots in Italy. This was my fifth and her first trip to the Bel Paese. Since we were only going to be there for a week, I knew she needed to see Rome and Florence, where I have been many times, but I also wanted to discover something new to experience and share with my clients back home.
Starting our trip in Rome, we decided to begin our touring immediately after quickly dropping our belongings off at the Hotel D’Africa. After changing clothes and doing a quick yoga inspired “legs-up-the-wall” pose, we felt refreshed and ready for our first adventure. We wisely chose to start our sightseeing on a “off the beaten path” golf cart tour of Rome. I thought being out in the sunshine and not having to walk everywhere would give our bodies a chance to get used to the time change, and I was correct! As we merged into Rome’s heavy traffic in the golf cart, I can remember thinking that we must be crazy, but after 10 minutes surrounded by what seemed like 10,000 mopeds, all concern washed away as we were taken to the front entrance of practically every destination we could have imagined. We went to practically empty churches filled with flowers for an impending wedding that evening and were taken directly to important works of art and given mini history lessons about the artists and the significance of the work.
The luxury of traveling through super congested Rome via a golf cart is that you can take all the little back streets and go around all the traffic. You can also tailor it to your interests, even if that includes getting your money exchanged for Euros or grabbing a to go Aperol Spritz! All in all, the golf cart tour of Rome was one of the “new” best things I discovered on our trip. It is also something almost every subsequent trip I’ve booked to Italy has included. And everyone has enjoyed it as much as we did!
After a few more days in Rome exploring and eating our weight in gelato, we started to make our way to Florence. We decided to take a local train to Orvieto, a small city in the Umbria region. Orvieto is situated on a flat summit with almost vertical cliffs surrounding the city. Since we were traveling with our luggage, we checked it at the train station and took the Funicular the 515 feet straight up to Orvieto. Once we hiked up the remaining hills into the town, we discovered how charming Orvieto is! Even through it is home to only 20,000 people, it managed to be both quaint and chic at the same time. Orvieto is filled with the most enchanting stores and restaurants, but the Duomo di Orvieto has got to be one of the most sparkly and intricate churches I have seen. Orvieto was certainly worth exploring! It was some place I had always wanted to go. I am so glad we made the time to stop and tour it!
After our morning in Orvieto, we hopped the high-speed train to Florence and made our way to The Plaza Lucchesi for a couple of nights stay. Situated on the Arno River, The Plaza Lucchesi is a beautiful hotel with lovely amenities, but the absolute cherry on top of this lovely property has got be the stunning rooftop pool and bar. We were tired after walking all day and took in our first evening in Florence poolside sipping more Spritzes as we watched the sun set over the Duomo. The rooftop was filled with locals and we especially love the views of the city and the cool vibe of the place.
The next morning, we had scheduled a day trip to Venice. We had to catch an early train and The Plaza Lucchesi had prepared us boxed breakfasts to take on the train. All we had to do was grab a coffee and go! Once we arrived in Venice, we had a small group walking tour of Venice and then spent rest of the day window shopping/people watching. We’ll spend more time in Venice next time!
We made our way back to Florence that evening and checked out of The Plaza Lucchesi the next morning. Next on our agenda was a couple of nights at The Four Seasons Florence. I could go on and on for days about this property and how magical it is, but you really must see it to believe it. The compound that is The Four Seasons Florence is comprised of two Renaissance buildings and an 11-acre private park filled with massive sculptures and museum quality works of art. It was once even owned by Pope Leo XI, the shortest serving Pope in history.
For the next two days we spent our days exploring and buying up leather goods in Florence. We had grown super attached to our hotel and struggled with even venturing off the property, but we did manage to tour the Uffizi and take in the sights of Florence. Florence is the perfect sized city. It is easy to see why so many people mention it as their favorite city. It is youthful, full of art and doesn’t feel as overrun by tourists as Rome. All that, and we had possibly one the best meal of our lives!
Unfortunately, our time in beautiful Florence (and The Four Seasons) had come to an end so we needed to make our way back to Rome for our early flight. We took the early high-speed train straight into the Rome airport and easily made our flight. It was convenient and made our departure stress-free.
Leaving beautiful Italy was hard, but I returned with new excursions, hotel/restaurant recommendations, and suggestions for friends and clients who will be traveling to Italy. But, most of all, I got to see Italy with anew through my sister’s eyes as she took in the history and all that Italy has to offer. We walked at minimum of ten miles a day and ate all the pasta, bread and cheese we wanted! And now we’re ready for our second and sixth visits!