Sean: Why did you decide to visit Italy?
Claire: If I’m being honest, the Lizzie McGuire movie started my obsession with Italy. I have been wanting to go since I saw that movie, but through my own research and the ancient culture surrounding Rome and the renaissance in Florence, I was just dying to go visit, and was able to convince three of my friends to come with me!
Sean: How long was your trip? Which cities did you visit?
Claire: My trip was fourteen days long. We spent 4 nights in Rome, 3 nights in Positano (Almafi coast), 3 nights in Venice, and 4 nights in Florence! We made a loose itinerary , which worked out extremely well.
Sean: What was one of the biggest cultural differences you experienced?
Claire: The ancient culture was amazing! But the places we went were all very touristy. I feel like the cities were so used to tourists that I never felt a huge cultural shock. The people cater towards tourists. I almost wish they didn’t! But we found if you ate late like the Italians did, you were more often going to be surrounded by true Italians who were friendly and invited you to family meals!
Sean: What advice would you give someone visiting Italy for the first time?
Claire: Take a Rick Steves book, he knows everything you need to know about all the cities! He gives you amazing restaurant recommendations, places to view the city and even pub crawls! Bring maps. And get a plan with data or make sure you have an off-line map app that still shows you where you are and directions offline, because I was the only one with data and it was very expensive. We were not good at reading paper maps. Also, know that you can negotiate almost any price. And if there is a house wine, it’s almost always delicious and cheap! Bring a water bottle and fill it up at fountains. Their water is clean, but for some reason they charge you for water at all the restaurants, so bring your own! I would make sure everyone in the group has a credit card that gets points or works internationally. If you are with a group like I was, it is super easy to just do all dinner family style, where one person pays to make it easy on the restaurant and we just divided the bill in Euros and Venmo-ed the American amount. But we all got lots of points on our cards! We also packed a carry-on suitcase, and it made life so much easier! It’s easier to walk around with carry on suitcases then with big bulky ones. It made all the difference!
Sean: Do you have any regrets in regards to your trip?
Claire: I regret not being able to stay longer! I wish we had more time in Rome and Florence. I feel like I’ll need to go back to those cities! But besides that, I regret nothing.
Sean: What was the highlight of your trip?
Claire: We did a 5 hour architecture tour of the Coliseum, including underground and restricted areas with an amazing tour guide, and it was by far one of my favorite things. We booked it through Through Eternity, and it was just so informative and the guide was an architect, so his love for Palatine Hill, Roman Forum and the Coliseum was definitely transferred to us and now I’m obsessed! He made us feel we were in Ancient Rome! My second favorite was in Positano. Our Airbnb was owned by the family that had the restaurant below, and they took us in like family! Our last night there they reserved us a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, took our menus away, kept our wine glasses full, and just spoiled us with a traditional meal. We could’ve stayed there forever! I really loved the entire trip, but those two things were definitely my favorite things!
Sean: How did you make and stick to your budget?
Claire: We were not good at budgeting! But we did good on splitting meals, doing the house wine, and buying Airbnb and plane tickets in advance so we ended up saving a lot of money on tickets and housing!
Sean: What was the most challenging part of your trip?
Claire: Reading maps and navigating the cities! Once we were there for a day or so, we finally knew the landmarks, but the initial day was a bit hard! Also, we only brought carry-on suitcases, which was very smart, but packing for two weeks was hard!
Sean: What surprised you the most during your stay in Italy?
Claire: How touristy it is! Venice is definitely a giant museum now, which is sad, but it’s an amazing place! I believe there’s only like 10,000 locals total that still live in Venice, which is sad because the rest are tourists! I was very surprised by that.
Sean: Did you buy any souvenirs?
Claire: I bought glass jewelry for friends and family back home from Murano–Venetian glass! And I bought a pair of leather shoes made for me in Positano! I sent many postcards and I shipped wine home.
Sean: Was it necessary to know any Italian?
Claire: No, but we tried to learn some. The locals are so nice, and truly love teaching you their beautiful language! They would make fun of us but then teach us fun phrases. We had a blast trying to learn Italian!
Sean: Did you experience any misunderstandings / mistranslations with locals?
Claire: Many times with waiters and ordering food, but nothing bad ever happened. Most often it was funny!