It can be a rare experience to have the opportunity to chase your ancestors and family history in the town in which your family came from. I had this once in a lifeime chance in the summer of 2017 when I travelled to Pomarico, Italy to meet my long lost famiglia and bridge the gap between our long lost family.
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From the historical Colosseum and ruins in Rome, fashion in Milan, romance in Venice, beaches in the Amalfi coast, and the ancient cities of the south near Bari, Italy has something to offer everyone. This country is chalk full of adventure, picturesque moments, rich wine, tasty sweets, mouthwatering pasta and some of the kindest people we have met in Europe. Italy is a perfect destination for backpackers and vacationers alike.
Why Travel To Italy
Apart from the obvious historical status, cobblestone streets, curvy roads, and delicious foods, there is no excuse why you wouldn't want to visit this beautiful country. If you are on a backpacking trip, chances are this country is on your list, as its geographical location is well within reach of of nearby heavily touristed countries. This is a perfect country to get lost in for a little while; your sense of adventure and exploration are heightened in this country as everything there is to see leads to something even more bold and beautiful. The list is infinite of things you can do to keep yourself busy. Moving throughout the country is easy, affordable and scenic, as Italy has a wonderful rail system that runs everywhere you will want to go.
The Nitty Gritty Facts
Almost 60.6 million people live in Italy and 3 million of them are concentrated in Rome, the capital.
Italy's national language is Italian.
The National currency of Italy is the Euro €.
The world's third oldest continuously inhabited city for 9000 years is located in the south of Italy, called Matera.
Italy is credited with creating Parmesan, Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Provolone and Ricotta cheese.
The Vatican City is an independent state within Italy.
Ancient Rome was said to be eight times more densely populated than modern New York.
Rome — Vatican City — Florence — Milan — Venice — Cinque Terre — Matera — Pomarico
The best way to travel within Italy is by train. Sure, you can find cheap flights or take a bus with the ever popular European tour company Busabout, but traveling by train is fast, efficient, affordable and allows you to see the countryside and travel through towns and cities you would have otherwise never seen. The best option is to buy a Eurail pass which will allow you to travel seamlessly throughout the country whenever you want and will take you wherever you want. To save money on accommodation, take night trains, and reserve a couchette for a good night's sleep.
Travel by train in Italy is fun and easy. Major train stations and routes are in every major city.
Interrail pass for 3 days within one month for Italy start at €90 ($105 USD)
Eurail pass for 3 days within one month for Italy start at €151 ($178 USD)
Budget airlines for Italy include:
The Rugged Budget
The official currency in Italy is the Euro 1€ = $1.16 USD
Transportation for intercity trains €22— €50 (Unless you have a train pass)
Accommodation in a 6 bed mixed dorm in most cities in Italy usually cost around€12— €24 ($15—$30 USD)
Private room in a 4 star hotel in any major Italian city starts around €50 ($58 USD)
Beer at a bar €5 ($5.80 USD)
Beer from a shop €2 ($2.3 USD)
Pizza €10 ($11.50 USD)
Sit down restaurant €12— €24 ($15—$30 USD)
A pack of 20 cigarettes €4.20 ($5.60 USD)
Italy From From The Scratch My Pack Lens
Helpful Hints For Traveling In Italy
Book your train tickets in advance as Italy is a heavily populated and visited country. Tickets to major cities sell out fast.
If you want to see The Pope, you can go to the Vatican City on any given Sunday and watch him give mass. The price is free but you may need to get your ticket ahead of time to ensure a seat.
If you want to see the real Italy, leave the big cities and visit a town you have never heard of before. There are tons of amazingly beautiful, old and raw towns that are untouched by tourism in Italy. This is a great way to get unique pictures, meet un-jaded locals, and walk down ancient cobblestone streets.
Make sure you spend some time on the Mediterranean coast. It doesn't matter where you do it, but make sure you see it; it is breathtakingly beautiful and the water is near perfect.
There are bakeries everywhere in Italy where you can get a croissant, baguette, cheese, or pastry for a cheap price.
Major cities can get quite expensive if staying in the center. Staying just outside the city center means you will be spending less money on accommodation and food all while being only 15-30 minutes away from the picturesque or touristy parts of the city. All the major cities have great and cheap public transportation so it will be easy to get anywhere you want to go.
Italy uses the European plug. They have sockets using 220 - 240 V so citizens from countries such as the US, Canada, and most of South America need a voltage adapter to charge their devices.
Activities That Won’t Scratch Your Budget
Colosseum & nearby Ruins, Rome: Free
It is free to view the Colosseum from the outside but costs money to walk inside. It has got really overcrowded and tickets are sold out regularly. Get your tickets early and arrive early in the morning for a less crowded experience. Make sure to walk all the way around the colosseum to see the surrounding ruins of ancient Rome.
Hop on Hop off Bus Tour, Rome: $16
This is bus pass that allows you to hop on and off at every tourist destination in Rome over a 24 hour period. The company (Hop On Hop Off) stops at all the important stops and you can spend as much time you want there. When you're ready to leave just go back to the waiting point and wait for the next bus to pick you up and continue your journey.
Explore the Vatican City, Rome: Free
"Vatican City, a city-state surrounded by Rome, Italy, is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It's home to the Pope and a trove of iconic art and architecture. Its Vatican Museums house ancient Roman sculptures such as the famed “Laocoön and His Sons” as well as Renaissance frescoes in the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling."
St, Maria's Basilica, Rome: Free
This was Leonardo Da Vinci's last architectural design before he died. He actually died before it was complete, so half of the building is complete and painted and the other half is not. Upon entering the building it is typically Da Vinci, with beautiful paintings on the ceiling and a play of architecture that caters to his background in sculpting. In the back of the building there is a small museum dedicated to the history of the construction and to DaVinci himself.
Trevi Fountain: Free
This a beautiful 17th century fountain that still stands today after moderate restoration. The reason this fountain is unique is because the water free flows through the pipes using gravity to push it out instead of mechanics like any modern day fountain. It is said to be good luck if you throw in a coin over your back while making a wish. Get there early as it is always crowded and is a must see attraction while visiting this city.
Visit the Duomo, Florence: Free
This is a breathtaking church (even for Europe) and boasts the largest free-standing dome in the world (hence the nickname "The Duomo"). Santa Maria del Fiore as it is actually named, is the third largest church in the world (after St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London) and was the largest church in Europe when it was completed in the 15th century.
Hike to the Highest Point in Florence: Free
Take an easy hike up to the top of the hill in Florence. At the top is a beautiful park where you can see the cityscape and escape the craziness of tourists roaming the streets. This is a great place to view the sunset or have a picnic of wine, bread and cheese.
Explore the Market, Florence: Free
Florence has one of the best markets in all of Italy. The market happens every day and lasts all day. The market is long and narrow and allows you a chance to escape the sun and get lost as you venture through the covered shops where you can find anything from food to souvenirs, to leather goods.
Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa: $12
Take a day trip from neighboring Florence (90 minutes away by train for $12) to visit the iconic Leaning Tower.
Take a Hike, Cinque Terre: Free
Cinque Terre means "The 5 towns". Start your hike early in the morning in Riomaggiore and hike the path through all the town to culminate your hike in the 5th town of Monterosso for sunset and dinner on the beach.
Explore the Sassi, Matera: Free
Matera is claimed as the third oldest continually inhabited settlement in the world after Syria's Aleppo and Palestine's Jericho. The city of Matera has been occupied for the last 9,000 years and is famous for its Rupestrian Churches and the two Sassi districts, which are intact, cave dwellings from the Paleolithic era (better known as the Stone-Age).
Where Did We Stay (Accommodation We Recommend)
Hostel Lodi, Rome $21/night for a 4 bed mixed dorm
A very nice hostel located a bit outside of the main attractions but you can easily walk to the Colosseum or walk to the metro near by to take you anywhere you want to go. The staff was amazing and we were greeted with a very warm hello, welcome drink, and a smile. The staff answered all our questions and were eager to help us make sure we had a great stay in the hostel and in Rome. It boasts a great garden and comfortable beds.
L'Ostello dei Sassi, Matera $20/night for a 12 bed mixed dorm
This is great hostel with a great location. It was low season when we were there and pretty much had the entire place to ourself. It boasts great architecture, wonderful staff clean facilities and plenty of common areas to hang out in.
Itching For More Information About Europe?
We’ve had weeks full of excitement and some days riddled with difficulty. We’ve done our best to make it look easy, a seamless journey cross-continental, but the truth is that it’s hard work to travel. We’ve been sick, we’ve been broke, we’ve been covered in bug bites, robbed and thrown from a bus over the course of a year, but we’ve also uncovered a life time of beauty just by taking a chance.