Posted on September 23, 2015

WANDER: Italy by Kaif Khan

Wander

Italy is one of my favorite countries to visit in Europe, it is full of stunning cities, beautiful food and amazing people, so I’m excited to be able to share with you Kaif Khan’s experiences of travelling in Italy.

The lovely Kaif is a bureaucrat, foodie extraordinaire and lover of Bollywood in Canada who is the creator of the amazing blog called Quirk Kitchen 🙂

Welcome Kaif! x

(All photographs by Kaif Khan)

We were in two minds about where to go. This was to be the final leg of our beginning, our wedding, and we were clueless. My suggestion was South America. His was Europe. Both our families sided with him. After all, Europe is painted as the most romantic destination for a honeymoon.

We zeroed in on Italy. Now, choosing a city within Italy was a bit of a dilemma for us. So we did the most basic- we studied Italy on the map. Florence seemed like a destination smack in the middle. This meant that should we decide to go up north or down south, it would be convenient both ways.

There are several types of travellers. The kind that likes sleeping in for the most part and discovering the nightlife, the kind that likes living on a resort and the kind that likes to be out and about, taking everything in. We are the last kind. And the hustle helped us cover a fair bit of ground.

Florence

There are several reasons as to why one should visit Florence. The architecture will do you in. For natural beauty, the sunsets and mountains are what Florence is made of. The Tuscan countryside is dream like. Our early morning journey from Florence to Rome took us through mountains, vineyards, fog and a breathtaking sunrise. Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo there, is a work of art.

The other place I highly recommend visiting is Piazzale Michelangelo. It is a bit of a hike if you are planning to go there. I believe there might be buses to that route but we decided to hike it. Get there just before sunset- a tip given to me by my friend B who lives there and it served us well. The Duomo and Michelangelo’s David replica are spectacular against the sunset hues. Make sure to buy some gelato because you would’ve worked up an appetite by the time you hike up there. Take in every moment.

Getting around in Florence is easy- we walked everywhere. Do stay by the Duomo as it is the best location to stay in to explore Florence. There are lots of cathedrals, museums and architecture to be explored in Florence. Take your time with it.

 

Rome

There is a LOT to see in Rome. Give it 2-3 days at least if you are scrambling for time. Visit the Vatican City- just for the Sistine Chapel if you will. The art is breathtaking. Witnessing the Sistine Chapel in person, something I’ve studied about in art history, gave me the heebie-jeebies. Unfortunately, they do not allow for photos to be taken in the chapel so I have none to share. Then again, photographs will not do it any justice.

The Trevi fountain should definitely on your list. We were able to see only a part of it as the rest was under restoration. Nevertheless, definitely do it.

Piazza di Spagna is another crowd pleaser. I did not think much of it but it seemed to be a popular place to relax and chill. Right across from it is Piazza del Popolo. A spectacular little square which I recommend visiting for its architecture.

The Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum are all in one area. They definitely warrant a visit. My husband’s favourite movie is the Gladiator. One can only imagine the kind of fan boy look he had on. We did a whole video of him being a Gladiator in the Colosseum. Sadly, it is a work of art that we cannot share.

The Pantheon is awe striking. I am definitely going to recommend visiting it.

The last place I am going to recommend visiting is the Galleria Borghese. The art and the landscapes are almost whimsical. Make sure you have enough time to stroll through their garden.

I recommend getting the Roma Pass- it is a three day pass for the public transport system of Rome and will give you discounts as well as two free entries to museums/galleries. The Colosseum and the Galleria Borghese were the two free places we chose. The Vatican is not included and you will have to pay for it separately.

Naples, Pompeii, and Amalfi

We rented a car from Rome and husband and I did a road trip from Rome to Naples, on to Pompeii and Amalfi. We chose southern Italy over northern Italy for several reasons. We wanted to visit a coastal city. We wanted to breathe in the salty water and take in the nature. By this point, we were pretty saturated with architectural beauty.

Our first stop was Mount Vesuvius in Naples. We hiked right to the top of its dormant crater. It is a strenuous uphill hike and if you have any health conditions that prevent you from going uphill, I am going to recommend that you admire it from afar.

Our next stop was the ruins in Pompeii. For me, this was not as spectacular as driving towards the base of Vesuvius.

The last bit of our drive to Amalfi cannot be described in words. Words will not do justice to it. The magical views of Tyrrhenian Sea and the mountains on the other side, made us praise the Lord over and over. Make sure you buy gelato while you witness one of the most beautiful sunsets of your life.

Pisa

Pisa is a charming little town with not much to see except for the leaning tower of Pisa. It took us half a day to explore the leaning tower of Pisa. In the words of my husband, “they really are not kidding about it leaning!”

You will be surprised as to how much it will surprise you. It almost looks like a cut out.

Some tips:

DO:
1: Take your DSLR and a hefty memory card. You will be taking a lot of photos.
2: Get someone to take your photo
3: Eat a lot of pizza, cheese, fruits, lemon granitas and gelato. We bought bread, cheese, peaches, olives and cookies for our commutes. Well worth it.
4: Hike/walk and public transport or if you must, rent a car. Try not to spend too much on taxi rides.
5: Book hotels by downtowns and make sure wifi and breakfast is included
6: Get maps at the airport and/or railway stations. It helped us a LOT.
7: If you are renting a car, make sure to rent the GPS as the countryside is sometimes a dead zone for cellular phones.
8: Cellular connection is cheap so if you think you will need one, take it.
9: Take binoculars for Sistine Chapel and other architectures.
10: Do your research
11: Book Vatican tickets in advance through their website

DO NOT:
1: Take assistance from people trying to offer you help on directions and buying tickets on the railways
2: Leave your possessions and wallet unattended. There are a lot of pickpockets.
3: Go to museums without researching them. Some of them cost money and it may be saturating.
4: Venture out for food during Siesta. Usually between 1-3 p.m most restaurants shut business for the Siesta period.

-Kaif 🙂

Where you can find Kaif Khan:
Website: www.quirkkitchen.com
Instagram: @kaifoom

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