Florence is a historic and charming city, with some of the best markets for shopping. However, we found the city was similar to Venice: You’ll walk along the streets and it’s buzzing and exciting but 90 percent of people there are tourists. The only Florentine people were taxi drivers, tour guides and people servicing the tourists. Everyone lives outside of Florence, in the Tuscan countryside.
That said, if you are a history or art lover, you’ll be fascinated by the history and art found at every turn. This is where the Italian Renaissance began, and museums and churches are filled with the works of the Italian Masters: Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt. The Medici family, one of the most power rulers of Italian history, owned this city, and the imprint they left is everywhere.
Venice is one of those must-visit cities in the world, and certainly one of the most unique cities we visited. Venice is a series of tiny islands that were once inhabited. When refugees escaping persecution from Rome began hide here, they began building the city from the marshes using wooden poles dug deep into the bottom of the lagoon to create foundations that have now stood solid since 421 AD. While it’s a cool city that you should see, it is definitely more touristy than we prefer. It doesn’t feel as if anyone actually lives on the island; it feels like one giant tourist trap. Plus, Natasha found it the water stinky in some places.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend exploring Murano and Burano?
Venice is not the only island in the Venice’s Northern Lagoon that you can explore. With inexpensive ferries, island-hopping is a piece of cake, even with children, and the islands of Murano and Burano can be enjoyed with just a few hours of exploration. One island is renowned for its glass. The other? For its colorful buildings and lace. Both are charming and if you are spending more than a day in the Venice area, take one of those days to visit these islands, as we actually found this to be our favorite day when we were in Venice.
Rome is our favorite Italian city. It is basically an open-air museum – it was built so long ago that even if you didn’t rush around to see the sights and just walked around, you are walking through so much history at every tour. But Rome is also a very modern, living, breathing city. Most of the cities we visited in Italy, especially Venice, are 95 percent tourists with the Venetians who live outside the city coming in to earn money from the tourists. In Rome, you have tourists, but you also have a thriving city — the future of Italy is being built in Rome while the other cities were cities of the past. Rome feels authentic.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend exploring the Amalfi Coast?
Every picture you have ever seen of the Amalfi Coast on Instagram is THAT– the coast looks just like the photos you have seen. It is so stunning and, for Natasha, the highlight of our tour of Southern Italy. For me, Pompeii blew me away – the archaeological site is the most preserved of any site I’ve ever seen and it feels like you are transported back in time and able to visualized what Italy was like centuries ago. When we visited Naples, it was through a Mediterranean cruise – the last stop of one of our favorite cruises we took with our son. Taking a tour that incorporates stops in Sorrento, Pompeii and a drive along windy cliff roads overlooking the sea will be a long day, but for us, a definite you should do when in port in Naples.
Why The 2 Idiots Recommend exploring Livorno and Pisa
When we visited Pisa, it was through a Mediterranean cruise – the best of the three cruises we took when we went around the world with our son. Having wanted to see the Tower of Pisa since she was a child, Natasha was especially excited about the visit, but we discovered the port is actually in the city of Livorno and that you’ll need to travel inland to find Pisa. It’s a place everyone should see and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but we were surprised to discover Pisa isn’t much a city to visit; it’s truly just a square for tourists. However, we still enjoyed our day in Pisa, with some extra time to wander in Livorno, a very pretty town. Where Pisa is touristy, Livorno is not. Just as we like it!