I went to Italy back in 2010, and i didn't think it was that long ago, but it was seven years ago. But I do remember that it was one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken and would love to go back again.
The flight from Houston to Rome was about 14 hours, with a layover in Paris. I brought US dollars and exchanged my money, (you can usually exchange money at most airports where there are international flights) and a Visa gift card to do my shopping where I could use a card instead of a debit or credit card. If you use a gift card, make sure you are able to use it outside of the country so that the currency rate will be correct. If you are using your own bank card, it will automatically be correct, but call your bank in advance to let them know you will be out of town, along with the dates of your travel.
Rome, and the surrounding cities are very touristy, and the locals know it. Tips for safety: there are a lot of pick-pocketers, gypsies, and trafficking. We traveled with thin cross body bags/wallets, that we could wear under our clothes and be less visible. Don't walk around with your passport or too much cash either. When traveling anywhere you have to be careful, watch your surroundings, and don't give out information to strangers. Not to scare you from going here, or traveling anywhere else in the world, but I kid you not, I encountered a man who was so sketchy, trying to get info out of me like about my hotel, and who I was with, wanting to party and trying to get me to leave with him. I was like 16, and he was significantly older than me. Luckily, my dad and uncle were there so I felt pretty safe, and they literally had to threaten him away from me. I saw him walk over to another male who looked frustrated and they left. Moral of the story, use common sense and don't put yourself in a situation of trouble if you can help it.
We stayed at a nice hotel, with great champagne (there really isn't a drinking age out there), and within walking distance of a few little cafe's and shops. There was a cute place next door that I visited and had the best lemonchello ever, still haven't had one like it to this day. Of course you have to have gelato. It is really amazing.
The food in Italy was good. It was authentic Italian food. Their customs are different, as they don't put salt on everything, and most restaurants don't have meat-filled dishes. I ate a lot of pizza, mostly just cheeses and sauce and herbs, pasta, and sooooooo much bread. I was honestly tired of bread after this trip. Breakfast at our hotel was cereal, boiled eggs, prosciutto, and bread. But everything was fresh there. You could see them top off your hand kneaded pizza with fresh mozzarella and most restaurants made their own pastas, pastries and more from scratch.
Thing you will need:
*Plug adapter- the wall sockets are different from here of course, along with the voltage. So if you like to use devices that use a specific voltage, you will also need a transformer
* Sanitary wipes - not every public restroom has toilet paper. They use bidets, some are separate from the toilet(looks like a really short sink), we had one in our hotel room and some are on the same toilet bowl.
* Water bottle- If you are going to be touring throughout Rome and surrounding areas, bring a water bottle, especially if you are walking a lot. It is hot and you will get thirsty. There are little stands in some areas that sell various items and you can buy bottled water, but the water fountains in populated areas are better. You will see tourists and locals all filling up from that. And if you like ice cold water like me, good luck, because ice was not very common.
* Good walking shoes-you may be walking, a lot.
Sights to see that live up to the hype:
The Colosseum. It is full of history and a pretty cool place to visit. You can go inside for a short tour to get a chance to see where the action took place, and where the 50,000 people packed into the amphitheater to watch the games.
The Roman Forum is an area of old ruins in a plaza-like setting with religious and government buildings. It's just interesting to see the ruins and imagine the area as it was the center of the city back then.
The Square of Miracles
The square of miracles is in Pisa, Italy, where you guessed it, the leaning tower of Pisa is. It is also home to the Cathedral, the Baptistry, and the Graveyard. These monuments are meant to represent the birth, life and death of a man's life. And it really is a miracle to see; everything from the lawn to Cathedral is breath taking.
Whether you are a Christian or not, you must go to the Vatican City. St. Peter's Basilica is the largest church in the world, and you will not be disappointed. The Sistine Chapel is beautiful; the entire church and experience was incredible. Every single piece of art and painting was just breathtaking! Filled with the famous painting of The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, and more. Walk around and enjoy everything it has to offer, especially the museums. Plan a whole day to walk around and shop and explore, take it all in! Also, be mindful of the time of year that you go, because it can get extremely crowded.
Cathedral of Santa Maris Assunta, Siena
Although different from the Sistine Chapel, this cathedral is just as breathtaking (or even more) from the outside in. I probably just stared at the entrance for about ten minutes before walking in. I could have looked at it all day. This was probably the best part of my trip, just to see this. The gothic architecture was incredible! And the history of the church and everything from the marble floors to the organ was amazing to see!
Other things to do:
*Visit the Roman Catacombs
-the St Callixtus catacombs is the oldest known Christian catacombs
-the Holy Staircase. 28 steps that only the devout can climb. but you must climb on your knees. Pray for your family, friends, grace and mercy. You can also see the statue of Judas kissing Jesus before the betrayal
* Academia Gallery in Florence
-Museum with Statue of David & more
* Castel Romano Designer Outlet
-just outside of Rome, and has a shuttle service
-the oldest medieval stone bridge in Florence with shops built along it. I bought a real Italian leather cross body near here for a great deal and I still have it seven years later, looks good as new.
* we did a private, eight course meal and a show. It was like our own little Italian Opera! The actors put on a show, and they came to entertain. If you find something like it, I would book it. Their voices were amazing and it was so much fun.
If you have any other questions about my trip or any of the landmarks visited, feel free to email or comment!