Having not travelled to Europe before, I didn't know what to expect. I was excited to take in the architecture, history, culture and amazing food. On the other hand, I was prepared for the worst with many people telling me to take heed of pickpocketing and theft. Our itinerary included Barcelona, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, Florence and Geneva. As my heart was left in Italy, below are my top 5 things to see and do in two of my favourite cities.
1. Explore the city - I walked over 20,000 steps daily exploring Florence and felt I still had so much more to see. It's so easy to get lost; every wall, alley and building starts looking like the next, but I feel like that's the best way to truly know a city.
2. Eat your heart out - I had the best meals of my life in this city. Every single pasta dish, pizza slice and scoop of gelato I had was made with the freshest of ingredients. I normally am not a fan of coffee, cheese or wine (I know), but was in love with all three here. Yelp and I were closer than ever on this trip, and she never once let me down.
3. Go to Piazzale Michelangelo - A panoramic view of Florence, live music and arguably the best spot in town to watch the sunset. It's best to come about an hour before the sun goes down if you want to grab an open area on the stairs to enjoy the view.
4. Visit The Mall - If you're looking for deals on designer goodies, this luxury outlet 45 minutes outside of Florence is the place to be. It's the most beautiful outlet I've been to, and you can shop over 30 different brands. There's also a Gucci Caffè restaurant on the top floor of the Gucci store with an outdoor terrace offering incredible views of Tuscany.
5. Climb the Duomo - I recommend buying the all-in-one ticket (15 euros), which gives you access to see all 5 monuments in Piazza Duomo: Cupola, Bell Tower, Baptistery, the Crypt below Cathedral and Opera del Duomo Museum. Climbing to the top of the Bell Tower and the Duomo is about 900 steps altogether and is no easy feat! Being a 400 lb 95-year-old on the inside, I almost didn't make it.
1. Go to Raki for gelato - This place was recommended by a colleague, and it was by far one of the best gelati I had in Italy. It had the perfect texture and richness, and there's not an overabundance of flavours to choose from that you're standing there for 30 minutes trying to decide.
2. Take a day trip to Positano and Amalfi - I'll let the views speak for itself. If you decide to take a bus from Sorrento, the thrilling trip is about 30 minutes to an hour, and offers the most breathtaking views of the coastline. Warning: side effects may include nausea, dizziness and headaches due to the extreme twists and curves in the road.
...and I ran into another Toronto blogger (@cynthyeah) there I had only stalked on Instagram, and never actually met until walking past her down the Amalfi coast:
3. Visit the shops and walk along the coastline - Sorrento is a very small coastal town that you can walk from one end to the other in a mere couple hours.
5. Take a day trip to Pompeii - I was so immersed in the history of this old Roman city and exploring the excavated ruins, that I didn't take a single photo of the vast archaeological site. To make it up, here are photos from Montserrat (an hour away from Barcelona):
That pretty much sums up my trip, give or take my phone being stolen in Barcelona, and me being appalled at two drinks at Starbucks costing $17 in Geneva. Would love to know what your favourite cities are in Europe!