I have wanted to hop over to Italy several times while in Greece and just got around to it this fall! I hopped the pond with just a backpack and intentions of backpacking Italy for 8 days (I ended up staying 10!) and then going to Greece. It's safe to say that Italy is a mecca of art, architecture, and beautiful beaches. Weather you're into smaller towns and wine tasting, beaches and views, or larger cities with lots of museums and sightseeing, you can plan a fantastic trip around one or all of these priorities. I particularly enjoy all 3, so I tried to hit multiple locations in this one trip. I compiled some of my favorite experiences, and a "travel guide" of sorts for solo backpackers!
- You don't have to have a strict travel itinerary. However, loose plans and some pre booked tours ARE necessary if you want to make the most out of your trip! I used a combination of Rick Steve’s and some of the travel bloggers I follow to decide where I wanted to prioritize visiting. I planned my trip so that I spent a minimum of 2 days in every city I wanted to see. I enjoyed paying for a tour (weather it was walking, or by boat) for one day, and then exploring on my own or with new friends on the consecutive day. This way, I was able to have structured tours without worrying about waiting in long museum lines (some galleries in Rome and Florence had up to three hour waits if you didn’t have a tour booked) and the stress of wondering if the bus I wanted would show up on time. Then I could hang out with new friends, drink a Rossini or two (you MUST drink one or three while in Florence), or shop in the Chanel store on the day I wasn't doing a guided tour.
- DO use travel apps! I used Hostelworld, Booking.com, Airbnb, and Couchsurfing almost every day on the trip and several weeks before to get an idea of where I wanted to stay. The reviews are also really helpful to read while planning. The most fun I had the most trip was staying at Hostel Brickette in Positano. The owner was so kind (and she made us dinner and brought us homemade wine made by her grandfather in Italy!) The views were INCREDIBLE, even from the hostel balcony. I met tons of other people from several different countries and we sat on the patio and drank wine for hours. The most fun night we had was going to Music on the Rocks, a music venue built into the side of a cave. I would 100% recommend staying here if you are hoping to meet other people while traveling. The other thing you have to do is rent a boat to sail around Capri! It is cheaper the more people you have to split with, and is great because you have the freedom of coming and going as you please. At the end of the blog post there is a link to check out the GoPro Video I made of my weekend in Positano! (Also- Quik is the latest and greatest video production app. It is so user friendly and easy to use on a mobile device! I made the video on a train with my phone.)
- You can fly internationally inexpensively! I recently applied for a Delta Gold card and it had been my best friend for international flying. Not only do they have great customer service, but I purchased my round trip to and from Italy from the US for just 60$ in taxes! Miles points are incredible. Also, my favorite travel app for cheap flights is Momondo. It even has a price calendar, so if you are traveling on a budget it is great for international flights.
- Pack lightly, but not JUST practically. I found that I wore my Lululemon leggings, tops, and Adidas tennis shoes more than I expected. Walking tours can be extensive, and you want to make sure you're not suffering through them in sandals. However- do bring some of your favorite dresses (I took 4 Free People dresses and one Mumu and wore those during the afternoon every day) and one pair of heels for nights out/ pretty photos! Also, a cute one piece and swim cover-ups are ESSENTIAL. The other fantastic thing to pack is dry shampoo. Chi makes a mean hairspray and dry shampoo that come in aerosol cans that are small enough to pack in a carry on! (also- you can get it as a free gift with a Chi purchase at Ulta: http://www.ulta.com/travel-size-dry-shampoo?productId=xlsImpprod13031211)
- Book a photographer. Weather your alone or with a group of girlfriends or honeymooning, I suggest booking a photographer somewhere you enjoy and doing a shoot! You will love the memories and nothing compares to professional photographs to commemorate your trip, and the new booking app Flytographer makes it super easy to book an international photographer! Link: http://www.flytographer.com
- Be a tacky tourist: Buy a GoPro, you will NOT regret it. The last two models are completely waterproof so you never have to worry about damaging a nice camera or your phone! Also, bring only purses that you can wear cross body, and never carry your passport/phone/GoPro in an open purse or a back pocket! Pickpockets ARE real and they are aggressive in Italy! Be extremely aware on subways and train stations and in touristy spots. I had friends that lost phones without noticing! Also: for my fellow GoPro lovers: this handy leather neck holder was not only super handy but also cute! Traveler Leather is a great small business and has great accessories:
- SHOP. Buy everything in Italy. If you tend to gravitate towards luxury items, buy them duty free! Anything luxury over 150 Euros counts (Chanel, Louis, YSL, Chloe, Dior, Celine, Versace stores are everywhereeeeeee- and going back through the airport you can easily get a tax refund on your items. My choice were some fab gunmetal and diamond Chanel studs from the 2017 fall collection (from the Chanel Boutique in Florence). I also love buying silk scarves off the street. They were not only super cheap but also functional (great for covering shoulders when going into the Vatican and other churches).
- Pack yourself a mini medicine cabinet! You never know how 14 hours on a plane and no sleep will affect your body (essential if you are traveling alone)- and it is easier to self-medicate when the boxes are in English (not Italian lol). I would take allergy meds, Emergen-C, cough drops, UTI medication, inhalers, Tylenol, Tamiflu (better safe than sorry!) an emergency Z-pac if your doctor will give you one, etc.
- Invest in a good backpack. I love my Amazon Prime account- so I ordered several bags of different brands and sizes and tried them out to see what I could fit in them and what was too heavy to carry. I got a 35-liter bag that fit everything I needed perfectly! You also want to make sure the bag has enough padding to support your back- as you will be hauling everything around and want to be as comfortable as possible. Osprey and Teton make comfy affordable travel backpacks!
- Treat yourself- even before you leave! I recently discovered eyelash extensions and I love them. I go one a month for a fill and feel so glam when I leave! They are especially great for traveling because you don’t have to worry about packing mascara at all. We went boating around Capri and I had no worries about having raccoon-eye after jumping in the water! I also recently tried microdermabrasion, which was great to clear up any blemishes before traveling! I would recommend doing it two days before leaving- it will leave you feeling refreshed for your trip and give any reddening in your skin time to return to normal before leaving. I went to Ozark Dermatology and had a fantastic time and spent about $100, it was well worth it!
- DRINK ALL BRONELLO WINE> DRINK IT ALL. Also eat all gelato that you can possibly consume. The wine tastings are great and not hard to find, so drink up!
Florence was my favorite city- if you like art the suffixing gallery is necessary. I did a “Uffizi highlights” tour (with Walks of Italy) because it is nearly impossible to navigate the whole museum on your own!
Rome was lovely- I personally enjoyed the Sistine Chapel tour the most. It is VERY crowded, however, so be prepared to navigate lots of people. I did a “Rome in a day” tour with the same Walks of Italy company and it hit almost all the major highlights in a 7 hour walking tour. It was great to do especially if you are traveling alone and love history!
Venice is so different than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life- I highly recommend taking the water taxis, they are expensive but much less so than the gondola rides and you still get to ride around convientley!
Link to walks of Italy website to book tours: www.walksofitaly.com
Here is the link to my video in Positano (thanks to GoPro): https://www.facebook.com/eleni.lenore/posts/1326733610782678:0