There isn’t another country in Europe quite like it. Italy is a land of dreamers who produce creative ideas that come alive. “You can have the universe, if I can have Italy,” the famous Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi once said. Why make that bargain? Because in Italy, you arguably already have the universe. The world’s best Chianti and Sangiovese from Tuscany, the most romantic settings in Venice, irreplaceable art with “David” in Florence, “The Last Supper” in Milan and Michelangelo’s famous frescos just outside Rome. And everyone knows the best pizza in the world is found in Naples. Even if you only have seven days, it’s enough time to sample the universe the Italians created
Fly into Rome early and take trains. You can hit all the highlights in the capital city in 48 hours if you move like a Roman – swift and confident. Explore the ruins of the Forum east of the gigantic Colosseum. With 80 arched entryways and room for 55,000 people, the Colosseum tour ticket costs $17 just so you can feel swallowed by its sheer magnitude. If you stay until evening, the massive Colosseum lights up, softening the structure where so many unwillingly sacrificed their lives. If you move on, grab some gelato and head to the Trevi Fountain where you need a few coins. Turn your back to the fountain, make a wish, and with your right hand throw a coin over your left shoulder. Two coins result in a new romance, three in marriage. But you should wish for a good night’s sleep because Day 2 is an all-day walking tour at Vatican City. Start at St. Peter’s Basilica – make sure you climb to see Michelangelo’s panoramic dome close up. Make your way to the Sistine Chapel, the residence of the Pope, and fulfill a lifelong dream by finding the “Creation of Adam”. Eat a quick, delicious pasta or pizza meal and head back. Five more jam-packed days await!
Florence and Pisa. Catch your train in the morning and be prepared to be amazed by afternoon. Florence is hands down one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. Explore this “City of the Renaissance” saving plenty of time to see the Uffizi Gallery which houses a few famous bodies of work including Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and some da Vinci originals. But the real body you should be concerned with is David’s. Michelangelo’s perfect male specimen stands front and center under the dome at Accademia Gallery. Head to dinner and drinks and call it a night. Before you leave Florence, however, stop in the Duomo, the city’s great domed cathedral. Take a half day and hop on a quick train to Pisa. There is not much more to see there besides the leaning tower so you don’t need a whole day. Avoid the relentless souvenir vendors and go straight to audio tour and consider buying a ticket to the top (small children not allowed). The structure seems to always be under construction – it continues to sink at a rate of 1mm a year. It’s not likely to fall over while you’re climbing it. It’s been standing at an angle since the 12th century.
There is no better place to spend the home stretch than the romantic city of Venice. As soon as you get off the train, take a vaporetto (water bus) through the Grand Canal to the city center. Don’t worry about getting lost in the canals and tiny passages that connect the city’s sections – that is part of the fun. Make your way to St. Mark’s Basilica (with floor to ceiling mosaics inside) and St. Mark’s Square, a tourist crossroads inhabited by pigeons. Next to the Basilica is the popular Doge’s Palace. The hefty admissions price is worth it simply because taking a tour of the palace is the only way to walk on the famous Bridge of Sighs. The bridge is an enclosed white overpass that once connected the new prisons to the interrogation room in the Palace. You can skip the tour and see the bridge and get a good picture when you pass under it. Make sure to sample Venetian food in one of the romantic outdoor restaurants and remember, a foul smell sometimes wafts from the Venetian canals, especially after a hot day. However, no bad smell can spoil the romance of the Rialto Bridge. It is the oldest and most popular, dating back to the end of the 16th century. Several boutiques line the bridge which connects to the Rialto Market where you can shop for souvenirs. You can view the bridge by land, but I recommend you flag down a gondolier. As you float under this remarkable icon, seal your romantic Italian moment with a kiss.
Krisha Chachra is Vice Mayor of Blacksburg, a regular columnist and author who has traveled to over 50 countries in 6 continents and reported and hosted shows for public radio and television. Her columns are taken from her journals and personal insights from traveling nationally and internationally throughout her life. Her book about returning to Blacksburg, Homecoming Journals, may be found in local bookstores. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Story by Krisha Chachra