Towards the end of a 14 hour overnight bus from Paris to Milan (ten-ish euros) we woke up in rural Italy, instantly brought to tears by the sun rising over mountains showing flashed glimpses of ancient villages. The bus made a pit stop at a petrol station where I ate the best fresh baked bread of my life, which made me cry some more.
We arrived in Milan with only a few hours to spend before our bus to Florence. We were sprinting Amazing Race style, with backpacks (something which became a theme since we had a tendency to get caught up in our current location) when I tried to be a hero, running ahead to catch it, but ended up falling and getting stuck in a sewer grate (something I did again later hopping off of a bus in Bulgaria). Travel insurance is a good idea!
During our quick visit, we shared one plate of pasta (Milan is expensive) at a swanky restaurant. We arrived in backpacks and bus pajamas. After changing into more Milano threads in this fine establishment’s bathroom, we headed to the stunning Duomo di Milano. If you get the chance to go, opt for the ticket that includes access to the rooftop:
Next stop Florence! We were instantly welcomed by other tourists casually drinking wine from glasses in the street. They gave us directions to our Hostel. We stayed at "The Florence Experience pros," a very social Hostel where we became close with an Australian couple, a Californian and a dude from Vaughan! We ended up traveling through several other cities with the Australians and our new Canadian friend. Florence looks like a painting, and whilst there you basically trip over artists recreating the sights on every corner.
On one of our last days we decided to get completely lost in the Tuscan countryside and "accidentally" found ourselves inside some of the beautiful local orchards:
Next we bussed to Rome and Vatican City where we saw a choir perform in the Sistine Chapel, took the Lizzy McGuire Movie tour, sought out the iconic spots where Audrey Hepburn was featured in Roman Holiday and applied "when in Rome" to everything. This was the only stop on the trip where we stayed in an actual hotel.
We got a Room at Hotel Beautiful (pictured left) which happens to be right above a Hostel named Friendship Palace.The previous spot we stayed, The Florence Experience, had only two communal showers for all the guests so having our own had us feeling royal.
Piazza Navona, Rome (this dress is still somewhere in Italy).
Next stop was Naples (land of pizza). We stayed in an airbnb with our new friends from Florence and took day trips to Capri, Pompeii and the Amalfi coast (where we ended up taking a respite, because it was so beautiful). In Capri we sprung to see the Blue Grotto (WORTH IT). The visit only lasted about three minutes and to get there you have to pay a local to take you by boat, but if you’ve never been in a glowing blue cave, I recommend it! I'll be real, pretty much every rock abroad made me excited, but the majority of our group was underwhelmed by Pompeii. We explored the museum and ruins which were majorly reproductions (below).
Amalfi on the other hand had everyone's jaws on the floor. We took a train to a bus that wound around the coast to the different beach towns. Luckily I don't get car sick. The town of Amalfi, while beautiful, is not the spot where most Pinterest photos are taken. That's Positano (below).
Behind the buildings, and the first slope, we found a secret beach where we swam right into a cave that had a mysterious staircase to nowhere inside. I recommend checking your bags close to the bus stop, near where this photo was taken, since hiking back up this town with two months worth of luggage on your our backs was dumb (but an adventuuuuuure)! Our accommodations were in a neighboring town on the coast called Minori (below) which was much cheaper.
Finally we took an overnight Ferry to Sicily. We got off early in the morning and hastily found WIFI to book the nearest hostel. We chose to switch hostels when to our surprise in the middle of the first night, eight Italian men stormed through the common room, singing, and began to cook themselves a three course meal while completely naked. After staying in Palermo we took a day trip to the unreal town of Cefalù. There, I was extremely sick but still took some of my favorite photos from the trip:
And so thirty days into our travels we said goodbye to Italy. Or so we thought. A few weeks later while road tripping through eastern Europe we realized we were only a few hours from Venice, a city we’d missed!
It wasn't until the end of our trip that the three of us realized we had ended up touring eleven different countries; eight of which we hadn't planned on even seeing! Thank you to all of the people and all the opportunities that took us so much farther than we ever could have expected!