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Italy was the second country I visited after France. My first stop was Florence. Well, I stayed at an agritourism lodging place in Tuscany, which was about 35 minutes drive outside of Florence. Unfortunately we hit cold and rainy weather after leaving Nice so most of the time I was fighting off mosquitoes and driving/walking in the rain. It felt almost like Paris all over again (weather really impacts mood and experience during traveling for me). Florence was beautiful from a view at the top. There were a ton of leather shops, regular shops and restaurants. I spent a couple days exploring Florence and thought that was enough. It wasn't as amazing or my favorite city so far like I have heard from other people that had visited Italy. I visited touristy Pisa, nearby areas in Tuscany, and then I was ready to leave.
Venice was my second favorite part/city of the whole trip (after Nice). The weather blessed me with some sun for almost the whole time I was there (1.5 days). I got to see water again! So of course my mood came back up again. Venice is a very small, interesting city that survives on foundations beneath the water. There are also no cars whatsoever in the city, so that was very refreshing. Yes, the canals are stinky and some alleys might be very dirty. But you're in Europe--it's expected. Every canal path was so picturesque I wanted to snap a picture at every turn (sounds familiar?). The grand canal was amazing, though. Food and shopping aren't exactly known for in Venice, but I didn't mind taking a break from that to just enjoy this 'floating' city as it is.
Rome was my last destination before heading back to Seattle. Before arriving there, I was thinking, oh god it's going to rain like the weather has been forecasting and it will be even dirtier and stinkier than all the previous cities I've visited since Paris. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. It was the last leg of the trip, and at that point I was ready to go home. But Rome was less touristy (thank goodness for off-season October), warmer weather and no rain (yay!), and some of the best Italian food (compared to other places I ate at before coming to Rome). Shopping was also much better since Rome is a slightly bigger city (we found a huge 5-story Zara).
Some tips I learned while traveling in Italy:
- Many restaurants in Italy has a 'cover' charge ranging from 3-6 euros per person. It's basically a service fee (or automatic tips charge). This is kind of hard to avoid, especially at the better restaurants
- When buying leather goods, look for labels inside that say, Made in Italy and Genuine Leather