HISTORY. The Colosseum or the Flavian Theater hosted the most brutal gladiator fights in history.
Elle Guison
MANILA, Philippines – There’s no denying that Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and more likely than not, it’s on every traveler’s list of dream destinations. There would be so much to see and explore – its romantic cities, gorgeous beaches and mountains, rich culture, historical art and architecture, and exquisite cuisine.
Should you go on a trip to this boot-shaped country (which is almost as big as the Philippines), nine days would surely not be enough. But if you have a good plan and a reasonable budget, it’s possible to see some of Italy’s most famous cities from north to south.
Planning a trip can be really stressful with all the places you want to visit and the bookings you have to organize. If you’re not keen on making plans, invite a friend who enjoys doing it, or you can just read on to find out how to visit Verona, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Naples, and Sorrento in just nine days.
One of the main reasons that deter people from traveling is money. Since Italy is a European country which is about 11,000 miles away from the Philippines, the bulk of your trip budget goes to your flight ticket. (In my case, I was already in Italy as an exchange student when I traveled around with a friend, reducing my expenses.)
A roundtrip flight between Manila and Milan starts at P35,000. You can also land in Verona but the cheapest flight ticket costs around P45,000. Try to book your flight weeks or months ahead to get the best deals. Aside from this, you also have to secure a tourist Schengen visa which costs €80 (P4,549). Once it’s all set, pack your bags and you’re good to go!
For this trip, let’s suppose you’re coming from Milan. To reach Verona, you have to take two trains: from the airport to Milan Central Station, and from there to Verona Porta Nuova, which will cost you around €26 (P1,473). (Reminder: Don’t forget to validate your tickets before boarding the train!) The whole trip will take about three hours, which is quite tiring especially if you didn’t get enough rest during your flight. Of course, you can reenergize in Milan and also see the city, but we weren’t able to do that on our trip. Here’s another guide if you’re interested in traveling around four cities in Northern Italy with Milan as the entry and exit point.
When you finally reach Verona, you still have to take a bus from the train station to the city center. A 90-minute bus ticket (which you also have to validate inside the bus) for this trip will range from €1.1 (P62) to €2.6 (P147).
The first thing that’s sure to catch your eye is a structure that you might mistake for Rome’s Colosseum. Don’t get confused: What you’re looking at is the Verona Arena.
Another must-see in Verona is Juliet’s House where you can see the balcony where Romeo supposedly gazed upon Juliet (though both are fictional characters). You could just take pictures outside with Juliet’s statue but you can also visit the museum for €6 (P340). You may also walk along Romeo’s House but it is not open to the public.
Once you’re done imagining the star-crossed lovers professing their love for each other, you can continue exploring the city. Walk around the Market’s Square where you can buy souvenirs or grab a gelato. After walking around, a panoramic view of the Adige River and Verona’s brick-red roofs awaits at the top of Saint Peter’s Hill. Take the two-way funicular ride for only €2 (P113) and enjoy the fantastic view from the terraces of the hilltop fortress.
At around 3 pm, it’s possible to leave the city with enough photos in your camera. After a three-hour train ride which costs €18.15 (P1,028), you can reach the city of famous Italian poet Dante Alighieri: Florence.
There’s quite a lot to see in Florence, so for this leg of the trip, we needed a hostel to stay in for two nights. I booked it a day before arriving and it cost us €26.18 (P1,483) per head. This price was already one of the most affordable ones. Don’t expect anything too fancy, but the place was safe and clean, and the owner was nice. It was also just a few minutes from the main station so it wasn’t difficult to find.
Arriving in Florence at 6 pm is just perfect if you want to watch the sunset by the Arno River. At that time, we just decided to “get lost” in the city, turning at random streets without even checking Google Maps. It’s a good experience that I would recommend you to try just to get an initial feel of the city. In my opinion, Florence is a very walkable city too.
For dinner, a must-try is the famous Florentine Steak which costs around €50 (P2,832). This is already good for sharing so don’t get discouraged because it is definitely worth the price. You should also be aware that restaurants charge a coperto (service fee) of €1 (P56.64) to €3 (P170). If you see this in your bill, don’t get alarmed. This is why you don’t have to leave a tip when eating out in Italy.
After walking around some more, you can drop by a grocery store for tomorrow’s breakfast. This is a great way to budget your money during the trip after you’ve tried out the city’s delicacies.
For the second day, we followed the itinerary I created. We didn’t get the chance to join a free city tour because we weren’t aware of it but these are available most of the time. Since we already walked around the city the previous night, some places were already familiar. Landmarks that you surely shouldn’t miss include the fresco-adorned Basilicas of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella. You also shouldn’t miss the majestic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore just around the Cathedral Square.
If you love painting and sculptures, then you’re lucky to be here because famous ones such as Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Michelangelo’s David are housed in the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Gallery, respectively. If you’re interested in seeing Galileo Galilei’s middle finger, you can visit the Galileo Museum. Entrance to these museums are not free though, and I suggest that you make an online reservation because the queue can be really long.
For free art viewing, which we opted to do, there’s Loggia dei Lanzi, an open-air museum where you can adore replicas of famous sculptures such as Giambologna’s The Abduction of the Sabine Women and Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa.
To perfectly end the second day, take a mini hike to Michelangelo Square where you may see possibly one of the best sunsets of your life.
On the third day, you can try out Florence’s famous sandwiches from All’Antico Vinaio. Priced at €5 (P283), their irresistible panini might just be worth the long lines. Grab some souvenirs as well such as refrigerator magnets, postcards, or a miniature David figurine.
Around lunch time, you can happily leave Florence to go see Pisa after an hour on the train for €8.90 (P504).
Since Pisa is just a small city, you only need a little time to go around. As for our trip, we dropped off our luggage at an automated self-service storage. We rented a standard cabin which can hold two small pieces of luggage, and it cost us €6 (P340) to store our stuff for three hours. While there are also other interesting things to see in Pisa, we have to agree that the highlight of the city is the famous Leaning Tower. Just take a bus ride from the train station to the Square of Miracles to reach it.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the freestanding bell tower of the Pisa Cathedral just beside it. When we arrived, we expected the tower to be taller; nonetheless, the breathtaking architecture didn’t fail to amaze us. Once you’re there, find a nice spot to get that perfect creative shot of you and the tower. Here’s a tip: Instead of adjusting according to the tower, ask your photographer to make the effort. We personally found that easier, especially since it could be hard to move every now and then while also considering the tourists in the background.
If you’re not a fan of the cliché illusionist photos and if you have the energy to climb 251 steps, you can just admire the view from the top of the tower. Yes, you read it right! The tower is open for tourists for an entrance fee of €20 (P1,133), and don’t worry, it won’t fall over. Aside from the tower, you can also visit the museums and exhibits in the same area.
When you’re ready to go, be sure to check out the souvenir stalls outside the Square. I was able to buy a small tower figurine for a euro and a pair of sunglasses for €5 before heading back to the train station. After picking up our bags, we were ready to take the four-hour trip to Rome. The ticket was €24.20 (P1,371).
Our stay in Rome was the longest because it had the most tourist spots to visit. We weren’t able to visit all the places but I can tell you about the ones that you should definitely not miss.
It was already evening when we arrived and so we just checked into our pre-booked hostel. For a three-night stay, we paid €50 (P2,832) per head which was a good deal because breakfast (croissants and hot drinks) was also included. After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to explore the capital city of Italy.
On the first day, you can walk around the city to explore open-air tourist spots such as Republic Square, Navona Square, Barberini Square, Barcaccia Fountain, and the People’s Square. Around these spots are also churches, and other landmarks such as the Spanish Steps, and Pincio Terrace – both of which are perfect for a golden hour portrait.
The Pincio Terrace also had live music like Florence’s Michelangelo Square, which definitely added to the romantic vibe while watching the sunset. To end the day, eat out at a good restaurant and taste delicacies such as their authentic Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Roman Artichokes, and of course, the classic Italian Tiramisù. A three-course dinner for two cost us €44 (P2,492).
For our second day, we visited the best places in Rome: the Colosseum and Vatican City. While this is doable on the same day, I would suggest that you visit them separately because of the amount of walking involved. There are a lot of other landmarks around the Colosseum and inside Vatican City and the two are also quite far from each other so we had to take a bus.
Visiting the Colosseum was definitely on my bucket list and one thing I could say about it is that it really is grand. Seeing the historical amphitheater from outside is sure to leave you speechless but more so when you’re inside it. We got a reduced ticket at €4 (P227) but prices vary depending on the visitor classification. After admiring the ancient structure, you can move on to the preserved ruins of the Roman empire such as the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and Trajan’s Market. If you move further along, you can also see the sizable Victor Emmanuel II National Monument by Piazza Venezia, and visit the Pantheon just by Piazza della Rotonda.
When visiting Vatican City, keep in mind that there is a dress code when entering some buildings. A must-see in this area are the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel which houses tens of thousands of artworks from paintings to sculptures and others. A reduced ticket can be easily purchased online for €8 which will allow you to adore the masterpieces of some of the world’s most known artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, and Caravaggio.
You can also take some time to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and roam around St. Peter’s Square. If you want to see the Pope, schedule your trip on a Wednesday morning for the papal audience or on a Sunday afternoon for the angelus and papal blessing.
Before leaving Rome, make sure to pass by the Trevi Fountain, turn your back from it and toss a coin from your right hand over to your left shoulder. According to the myth of the Trevi Fountain, this will ensure your return to Rome. Now that we’ve secured that, we can go to our last two destinations.
Take a three-hour train ride from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale for €13.10 (P742).
Visiting Naples is a whole different experience from the previous cities. Apart from the less uniform architecture around the city, costs here are relatively cheaper, which is actually true for most southern Italian cities. Just a bus ride away from the station, our hostel for two nights cost us €25 (P1,416) per head.
What to do when in Naples? First is to try their authentic Pizza Napoletana known for its unique dough and crust. Pizza here is also cheaper and usually just costs around €8 (P453) to €11 (P623). Heads up! Pizza ordered in Italian restaurants is not for sharing! Of course you can share but in Italy, you’re expected to eat the whole thing by yourself. You might get overwhelmed by this idea but it’s usually just enough to stuff your tummy for one meal.
If you’re looking for places to visit in Naples, you can take a stroll at the grandiose Piazza del Plebiscito. However, if you’re looking for a more adventurous trip, you can book a guided tour to Mount Vesuvius and the Pompeii Ruins, which can total up to €38 (P2,152). If you’ve perfectly planned your trip and it’s the first Sunday of the month, entrance to the Pompeii Archaeological Site is free.
On the next day, we went to Sorrento where we basked under the Italian sun by the coast. Sorrento is an hour away by train, located on one side of the Sorrentine Peninsula which is opposite of the Amalfi Coast. A single-journey train ticket can be availed for €3.90 (P221).
If swimming is not for you, it’s still possible to get a taste of the ocean by ordering seafood pasta like spaghetti alle vongole or spaghetti ai frutti di mare. A plate of pasta can cost you around €11 (P623) to €14 (P793). If you’re lucky enough, the restaurant may give you a complimentary icy shot of the town’s popular limoncello (lemon liqueur).
With your remaining time before sundown, roam around the city and buy some souvenirs. And of course, there’s no better way to end the day than with a nice sunset over the Italian coastline.
To go home, a flight back to Malpensa Airport is way cheaper than a long and tiring 10-hour train ride. Flights can cost as cheap as €11 (P623) and lasts only for an hour and a half.
I did not include everything that I bought during my trip, such as other meals and personal shopping items, but in total, a budget ranging from P25,000 to P40,000 can already ensure an enjoyable trip to Italian tourist destinations. If you’re coming from the Philippines, you’ll spend more or less P65,000 for everything.
To make your trip more smooth, here are some tips I would leave you:
Now that you’re all set, good luck with your trip and enjoy una bella vita for at least a few days in Italy. – Rappler.com  (€1 = P56.64)
Elle Guison is a Rappler intern.
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