As we began our journey through Europe we started in Italy, a place that Nic had visited a couple of times in the past and raved about and subsequently somewhere I had dreamt of. In actual fact starting in Italy was more of convenience than anything, we decided to cut out most of Western Europe as it would be too expensive and we have already visited much of that region. We planned on started in Slovenia but getting to Ljubljana from Manchester is more expensive than it is worth, but flights to Milan come pretty cheap!
Firstly we began in Milan and then took a trip from there to Lake Como, we then headed into the mountains over to Bolzano and then Alta Badia before finishing up in amazing Venice. In total we spent 10 days in Italy and encountered many varied cultures along the way…as well as some amazing food!! Italy was a great country to start backpacking in in many ways, it is much more familiar to us and easy to get around, they speak good English and are very used to tourists, it gave us a good place to bed into this lifestyle before heading out into lesser discovered regions. But on the other hand it is quite expensive, our budget was hard if not impossible to stick to even at the best of time, but as newbie backpackers we would make mistakes and those would cost us significantly more in Italy! That’s not to say we regret going, we had an absolutely unforgettable time in a country I had dreamt of visiting for so long. We had also put a little bit more money aside for this region too knowing that we would probably make some costly mistakes!! Italy is also bigger than you think with much more to do that you might imagine, using something like the Italy trip planner comes in useful!
Overall our highlights of Italy have to be seeing the legendary San Siro in Milan and then climbing the roof of the stunning Duomo, seeing the majesty of the Dolomites and the Lago Di Carezza and getting lost in the streets of Venice and exploring this city via the canals!
What we wish worked out differently; well we visited the Dolomites at exactly the wrong time! The winter season was over but summer one hadn’t begun! This was party because we hadn’t really even planned on going here initially! This meant we couldn’t do the via ferrata or climbing we had planned but it was quieter and not doing those did save us quite a bit of money!
Milan in my opinion was good but not great, I wouldn’t say I fell in love with this city like I have with others. The food was delicious as expected and I really enjoyed exploring the Brera district during the Milan design week, the atmosphere was incredible. It was also really cool touring the San Siro and the Duomo, some of the things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I think even though the design week played a big part in me enjoying Milan, it also played a huge part in me having negative feelings too When we originally booked to start in Milan we didn’t realise this festival was on.
We booked the flights then started looking for accommodation, this is when we were priced out of many places which normally would have been fine. We stayed in possibly one of the worst hostels anywhere, needing to get the hell out after only one night, and moving to one of best hostels anywhere (at a cost!). We moved around a lot due to the cost of the accommodation and slept in four different beds, this obviously didn’t help with my feelings for this city.
My overall feelings of Milan; Really glad we visited, food was awesome, design week was unexpected but created a great vibe, great sights to see and plenty to keep you busy, probably a little too expensive for a backpackers budget. Would only return in the future to watch a game at the San Siro.
Read about Milan here:
We only took a day trip up to Lake Como and quickly realised it would have been nice to maybe stay here for at least one night. The train ride up to the lake was really nice and scenic and the weather was perfect. We got off the train at Varenna and then took the ferry over to Bellagio. Bellagio was beautiful, lots of cafes and restaurants along the lake front, and many unique little shops which ascended up cobbled passage ways.
We explored the immediate area before renting bikes to explore a little further out. Overall feeling of Lake Como; We loved it, it was a very relaxed day trip, exactly what we needed from the hectic Milan. Things were still a little pricey but only being there a day didn’t really break the bank. I would definitely return to do a road trip around the lake to visit different towns and villages along the way.
Read about Lake Como here:
Bolzano is a beautiful little city which instead feels much more like a town. It was a strange place as it is situated in Italy but has a very Austrian/Alpine feel to it, the majority of people speak and generally feel Austrian rather than Italian. We stayed in a lovely guest house right in the centre of this stunning city. At first we thought this was quite expensive until the owner gave us a weekly pass which gave us free transport on the buses/trains to everywhere in that region, plus free cable car rides and free entry into every museum in Bolzano (there are over 80 so you’ll be spoilt for choice!) so was worth every penny and worked out to save us money!
We went to the Otzi the iceman museum which really was a cool experience seeing the oldest ever fully preserved human body. We also took a trip over to Lago di Carezza, a small hidden lake surrounded by the stunning and unique mountain ranges of the Dolomites which was epic in every sense of the word. Another awesome thing to see are the earth pyramids in Ritten/Renon, they are 25,000 year old natural phenomenons and the biggest and best found in Europe. They are a cable car and then a train ride away plus an hours walk, but definitely worth a visit.
We didn’t spend all that much in Bolzano thanks to those passes, and having a kitchen we could make our own food each night. Overall feeling of Bolzano; There are so many things to see and do in this lovely city, I would definitely recommend getting one of those tourist passes, although I’m not sure what they cost as we got ours for free. I would definitely return one day as some of the cable cars were not running as we visited in between seasons.
Read about the Dolomites here:
It was quite a strange feeling during our stay in Badia. This is because it is very much a town which really only operates during the ski season from November through to the end of March. We stayed in a wonderful little mountain chalet which we booked through AirBnB. We got the impression that the people who we rented the chalet from wondered why we were there in April, literally a couple of weeks after everything had shut down!
To be honest we kind of knew in the back of our minds that this was totally the wrong time of year, but we really wanted to do some via ferrata even though we knew it most likely wasn’t possible. We did get out one day to do some hiking though. Because of all this we made the most of our time inside and caught up with plenty of work.
Overall feeling of Badia; Most definitely the wrong time to visit, lovely accommodation with picturesque views. Would definitely go back but during the winter season or in the summer for some climbing and via ferrata.
Read more here:
We only had around 36 hours in Venice, we really only used it to pass through as we were heading to Ljubljana. We definitely made the right decision to stay over at least one night as we weren’t even going to do that. It gave Nic the chance to re-create some pictures on St Mark’s square from 22 years ago which was fun. We loved exploring all the tight winding streets and seeing all the famous sights. There was way too many tourists there as expected, it was just chaos at times.
The best thing we got to do was a free 2 hour boat tour which took us pretty much everywhere, from the famous grand canal over to St Georges Island, where we got to go up the tower and see amazing views all over Venice, whilst also learning about Venice’s rich history from our local tour guide.
Overall feeling of Venice; Such a wonderful and interesting city, lots of famous sights to see, too many tourists. I would definitely go back in the future and spend a little bit more time there to explore and get lost down its many streets and maybe take a Gondola ride even if it will break the bank! With such a short time here planning what we did was really essential to making the most of it and the Inspirock travel planner really help with this.
Read all about Venice here:
So my overall feelings of Italy:
We spent quite a bit of time in Italy overall, and visited many places which varied a lot. It definitely lived up to the hype that Nic had set, the food was awesome, the sights and things to do were great. I wish it could have been slightly cheaper as we did go over our budget. We could have travelled through quicker and maybe saved the Dolomites region for the future as April was the wrong time to do any activities. One day when we return we would love to travel the whole of Italy for at least a month and visit the Dolomites in both the winter and summer seasons to make the most of it. There are so many things to do in Italy that it is somewhere we really must come back to and see more of!