L'avventura di una vita
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Post graduation adventure or last ditch effort to avoid "adulting"? I think we all know the true answer to that question..
Post graduation is such a confusing time for so many people. Like most graduates, I ran away to travel Europe before committing myself to the corporate grind. I had a full time job lined up and this was my chance to see the world before surrendering myself to the dreaded 9-5 life. I decided to spend these few weeks doing what I do best, third-wheeling!!!! lol jk, but not really. If you follow my traveling_little Instagram page, then you know most of the time I travel with my brother and his wife, and I creepily take cute photos of them. I'm not sure if they invite me places out of pity or if I truly am the funnest person ever?! For my sake, we'll go with the funnest person ever.
So why did I choose Italy for a post grad adventure? Well, not only was it one of the most popular tourist destinations of 2017, but my grandparents were born and grew up in southern Italy. It had always been a dream of mine to see where my grandparents grew up and lived for the first 20 years of their lives. Both of my grandparents grew up in Cosenza, which is a small city in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. Since Calabria is the most southern part of Italy, we wanted to end our two week trip there. What better way to do that than renting a car and driving then entire length of Italy through the treacherous mountains?! Even though it was scary at times, it was well worth it for the breathtaking views.
The main advantage of renting a car on vacation is that you don't have to stick to a schedule. Having our own car allowed us to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Unlike Iceland, we went into this trip with somewhat of a plan. We used Google My Maps to create a general direction of places we wanted to see on our way down south. Below I will outline each location we went to and a few quick tips.
1. Flew into Rome
2. Florence - Vespa Tour through the Chianti wine region. - We used TripAdvisor to help us pick the tour. TripAdvisor makes it very easy to compare tours and read customer reviews. - Here is an exact link to the tour we chose. This tour had a few stops along the way where you could eat and drink at local cafes. The last stop being the Chianti winery located near a hillside villa where they provided lunch and wine tasting.
- Visit the Duomo Cathedral
- Piazzale Michelangelo is where you can see panoramic views overlooking Florence. To get here you can drive, they offer paid parking,or it can be reached by taking either bus 12 or 13 from the town center. It can also be reached by walking up from Piazza Poggi found at the base of the hill upon which Piazzale Michelangelo sits.
3. Pisa - Fun day trip, we went very early to avoid crowds.
- Went to the best sub place in town, L'Ostellino located within walking distance of the town center.
- Of course we had to make time to take a few touristy photos, haha see our best attempt below!!
4. Cinque Terre - There are multiple hiking options for this location, make sure to research beforehand and find out the best place to park your car. My brother isn't the hiking type, so we drove all the way to the top. Lucky for you, I've done some research for you :)
- The towns can be visited by bus, boat, train, or by hiking trail.
- There is a 11 km trail (called the Blue Trail) connecting Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare, which takes around 5 hours to complete.
- If you choose the hiking option, you have to purchase a Cinque Terre Card. This card will give you access to shuttle buses, hiking paths, and wifi.
Blue Line paths and difficulty:
Riomaggiore to Manarola: 1.5 km, easy, 30 minutes, also called “Lover’s Lane”
Manarola to Corniglia: 3 km, easy, 1 hour
Corniglia to Vernazza: 4 km, moderate, 1.5 hours
Vernazza to Monterosso: 3.5 km, moderate, 1.5 hours
5. Pompeii The moment we arrived at Pompeii it felt like being transported back thousands of years. The remains of ancient Pompeii leave behind a glimpse of what it was like to live as the ancient Romans. There are countless tours available to help you explore the ancient city of Pompeii, here are the top 10 on TripAdvisor.
6. Naples - Naples was not what we expected, our air bnb was not suitable so we stayed for the famous pizza and decided to stay in Salerno instead. (See, having our own car paid off) - The name of the pizza place is L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele. This place is known for its famous brick oven pizza and it's a MUST to put in a reservation.
7.Salerno - Not only was Salerno my favorite city during this trip BUT turns out it was very practical because you can take a ferry to Almafi, Capri, and Positano. :)
- I highly suggest buying your ferry tickets a few days in advance. Here you can see the different routes and prices.
Salerno felt like walking into a fairy tale, we arrived at the perfect moment to watch the sunset behind the mountains that surrounded the water. This was one of those moments where I felt extremely grateful to be where I was. It's so easy to get caught up in the moment, taking photos of the beautiful scenery, wanting to post on social media every chance you get but it's so important to remember to take a moment and enjoy yourself. Stop for a minute and put down your phone, think about everything you are grateful for in life and how you got so fortunate to be where you are in this moment.
8. Almafi, Positano & Capri - If you're willing to spend a little more on dinner this night, I would recommend the restaurant in Hotel Buca Di Bacco in Positano. You can make a reservation online here. - Capri: There is a gondola you can take to the top of the island and they recommend you take a bus to the gondola take off point. Instead, we just hopped in a cab and got there in half the time! (It may cost you an extra buck or two, but I think it is well worth it not to be cramped on a bus full of strangers that can only go 15 mph.) Once you get to the gondola take off point, its about a 15 minute ride up to the top of the island. There is a restaurant at the top, so you can grab a drink and eat while you enjoy the spectacular views.
11. Cosenza (Homeland!)
- Saw where our grandfather grew up.
- Met our extended family and had a home cooked meal! - Explored the land surrounding the family home, where the mountains were lined with rows of fig trees.
12. Tropea (BEACHES with clear blue water)
- Tropea is where we spent the last 3 days of our two week trip. After spending 8 days exploring all the major sights of Italy, we wanted to save time for relaxation.
- The last day in Italy, we rented a boat for the day and explored surrounding islands.
Notice how the beach here doesn’t look like your average tropical beach. Most of Italy’s beaches are very rocky and have little sand or greenery.
When we arrived at Tropea it was unlike anything I had ever seen. When we got settled in the Airbnb, we ran straight to the Ocean. Running aimlessly through the narrow cobblestone streets towards the sound of the ocean. Then suddenly the narrow street opens up to a cotton candy like sunset, the water was an icey blue I had never seen before and the sky was a swirl of pastel pink and blues. This was one of those moments that photos will never do justice.
13. Drive to Cosenza airport, fly back to Rome then back home to the windy city of Chicago.
WOW. Writing this blog has reminded me of just how many extraordinary cities I was lucky enough to experience during my time in Italy. Trying to describe this journey in a short blog post is nearly IMPOSSIBLE, there are still so many stories and photos I wish I could share with you all. Even though I wish I could share every second, I think it's good to leave room for you to create your own experiences in these places. These posts are meant to encourage you to venture out, go explore incredible new places for yourself, find a new beach off the beaten path, discover your favorite cafe for an early morning cappuccino and start creating new memories that are unforgettable!