Here’s how to wing it for a 10-day trip in Italy

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If you’ve been following my posts on Facebook and Instagram, you would have seen all the photos of my recent Italy trip I’ve been spamming. (Apologies for that – there’s just too much to share about Italy!)

To say that the trip was good would be an understatement. It was my first free-and-easy holiday with my girlfriends and, all things considered, it actually went pretty smoothly and we had a grand old time in Pasta-land.

We traipsed around Rome for the first three days before taking a train down to Venice for another three (hitting up Verona for a day), and finally completed the loop with the last two days back in Rome.

In case you missed those posts and want to see the daily recap, here they are:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Yes, that does seem like quite a packed itinerary. We broke our record on Day 2, when we visited SEVEN places: the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Capitoline Museum, the Trevi Fountain, Via del Corso and Via dei Condotti. Our calves and thighs were aching by the end of the day, but hey, we accomplished all that we set out to do!

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Those are grimaces, not grins

The rest of the days were no less tiring, but we still felt that we could have visited more places. We didn’t get to visit Murano, an island off Venice that manufactures exquisite glassware, and Burano, another island off Venice recognisable by its rows of colourful houses and is also known for its lace-making.

I’ve just about exhausted myself (and everyone) gushing about Italy, especially Venice. But I’M GOING TO KEEP TALKING ANYWAY.

Venice is so incredibly lovely, from its beautiful artwork to its rich, vibrant culture, to the cold, foggy weather, to the seagulls and the sound of water lapping against the shore, to the maze of alleys that present an interesting shop at every corner, to the lazy chug of water buses to the astounding architecture. Especially at dusk, before the fog creeps in (and even after that), Venice looks like something out of a fairytale.

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See why I can’t get enough of Venice? The Republic may not be a trading superpower anymore but it still retains its past glory like a dignified old dame.

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Rialto Bridge at night – The Rialto Bridge is the intersection where many merchants and traders gathered to unload their goods back in Venice’s heyday. These days, it’s a hotbed of fine dining restaurants, pubs, and shops.

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Outside Doge’s Palace

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Inside Doge’s Palace – the Venetians were not one to be defeated when it came to interior design! This is the Council Chamber, where the Pien Collegio (Full Council) met to organise and coordinate the work of the Senate.

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The Grand Canal at night

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A typical morning in Venice, where you’re woken up by the sound of seagulls and water boats chugging lazily down the canal

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Awe-inspiring architecture in Doge’s Palace. The doge (derived from Latin as “military leader”), was the chief magistrate and leader of Venice for over 1,100 years (697 – 1797). He was elected for life by the city-states aristocracy (the Council of Ten).

Anyway, I’m running off course.

Depending on what you plan to do on your trip, or the kind of trip you want to have (relaxed or action-packed), here are some tips on how to make the most out of your holiday:

1. Ignore the effects of jet lag

If we had given in to our weariness after a 13-hour flight (with a four-hour transit in between), we wouldn’t have been able to see the Colosseum and the Roman Forum in the day or the Pantheon at night. Why would you want to sleep off your first day on holiday anyway? Shake off the tiredness and hit the streets! There’s so much to do and see!

All psyched to visit the Colosseum despite our jet lag! #JLPtoItaly #colosseum #wanderingaroundrome #perfectweather

A post shared by Joyce Chua (@thewritesofpassage) on

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And boy, was the view worth it!

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The Roman Forum at dusk

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The remarkable street art that we would have missed if we had caved in to jet lag!

 

2. Visit the places of interest closest to you first

Our hotel, Duca D’Alba, was just a two- to five-minute walk away from the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill, so of course we covered those first.

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Trekking up cobblestone lanes lined with clementine trees #traveldiaries #JLPtoItaly #wheninrome #blueskyday

A post shared by Joyce Chua (@thewritesofpassage) on

Also, Vatican City was just a few train stops away from Rome, so we got up bright and early to visit it.

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After the tour of the Vatican (which took up the most part of the day itself because it is that huge and chock-full of magnificent things to ogle at), we made our way down to Saint Peter’s Basilica, which was only about a 10- to 15-minute walk away.

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It was dusk by the time we managed to beat the queue and enter the cathedral grounds

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But we got in a little too late, at half an hour to closing time (6pm), so we were being hurried out before we could venture deeper

 

3. Find convenient means to get around the city (or your vicinity)

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Image from the official Rome Tourism Site

Most big cities like Rome should have a transport pass for visitors. We got our 72-hour Roma passes for €38.5 each at the airport, and it allowed us: 1) to take any bus or train for an unlimited number of times, 2) two free admissions to any national and city museums in Rome, and 3) discounts to other sites after using up our two free entries. Pretty good deal, I’d say. It also saved us the hassle of buying tickets every time we wanted to take the train.

 

4. Plan a day trip to somewhere nearby

Given that Verona is just an hour’s train ride from Venice,  we decided to take a day trip down to visit the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. And it turned out that there was a Christmas market going on! This just goes to show that you need to venture out a little more around your area. You might just be surprised at what you’ll find!

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Charming ole Verona

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The Bard

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Love locks outside Juliet’s house

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Christmas cookies for sale!

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Verona was certainly all ready for Christmas!

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Dusk falls over Verona

 

5. Check out all the shops you want to…

… the first time round. Because you might not be able to find it again and you’ll waste time retracing your steps! Don’t bookmark the shops you want to explore later – just enter when you see them.

Be it Venetian masks

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Sweet treats

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Specialty lace from Burano

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Special edition books

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Fair warning: these cost upward of 50 euros each

Pretty stationery

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Candy (with the Pope’s face on it)

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Gelato

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More sweet treats that are packaged too delectably to eat

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Or gorgeous artwork on magnets and postcards

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Look at all the pretty art! I wanted to get one of each!!

Whatever it is you’re itching to get the first time round, GET IT. You’re likely not going to be back for a while, and you don’t want to go home regretting not having bought what you wanted when you first saw it (just like I’m regretting not buying those postcards now).

 

6. Allow ample time to catch your transport

We very nearly missed our 2.30pm train back from Venice to Rome, because we had lunch at 12.30pm at the highly-recommended La Zucca

After visiting the Libreria Alta Acqua (High Water Bookstore) in the morning

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The shop front is so nondescript you’d have to know what you were looking for or you’d miss it!

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Yes, they have an “erotic corner”

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Book nerds will rule the world one day … after we finish the next chapter!

So it was a mad dash from our Airbnb apartment (which was GORGEOUS, by the way)

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Spazzing over the decor

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To the Santa Lucia train station by water bus

We made it FIVE MINUTES before the train pulled away from the station. In our carriage, we panted and laughed like lunatics. Good times.

 

7. Squeeze in some time for shopping

While my travel companions were very much into the commercial brands offered in Rome, I was more fascinated with the novelty stores in Venice.

Black Friday shopping in Rome. #traveldiaries #JLPtoItaly #BlackFriday #shoppingtime #roamingaroundrome

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But whether or not you’re a fan of shopping, whether you prefer international commercial brands or indie one-of-a-kind novelty stores,  you’ll be glad you got some sort of memento for yourself or souvenir for your loved ones to remind yourself of your time in the place you visited.

 

8. But also make sure you get your culture fix!

One of the main reasons why I travel is so that I can immerse in the different cultures all around the world. Italy is not only rich in history (the Roman Kingdom was founded way back in 753 BC, and Venice was part of the once-mighty Byzantine Empire before it usurped its position as an economic force to be reckoned with), it is also fiercely proud of its culture, which it has for the most part retained over the centuries. So it’s perfect for culture and history buffs seeking inspiration and wonder.

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A bird’s eye view of the Roman Forum

 

9. Stop and smell the roses (so to speak)

Buskers, street art, ancient architecture, the people … There’s just so much to take in about Italy. While you’re busy Instagramming the moments (guilty), do take time to glance up and admire the sunsets, the street art, inhale the scent of olive oil and clementines, and keep your ears peeled for the strains of a street busker playing his saxophone or violin.

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Sometimes, I feel sad that talent like this goes unnoticed. But you are not invisible to me, sir!

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One thing I love about these Italian street buskers is that they seem to be having such a good time just playing music for the crowd without expecting much in return!

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This guy was so genuinely grateful for the appreciation passers-by showered him with. It’s like he didn’t expect his music to resonate with so many people!

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10. Be flexible with your itinerary

There are times when things don’t go as planned. We wanted to see Murano and Burano, but we didn’t have enough time. We wanted to see the Pantheon before the sun set, but the bus came late. The girls wanted to shop more, but we had to catch our flight home.

If you’re going to grind your teeth over every little thing that doesn’t go your way, then you’re going to make this trip miserable for yourself. If you get lost, explore. If the place of interest you planned to go is closed, go somewhere else. Problem solved!

 

11. Don’t get distracted by cute babies (or dogs)

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This cutie was so amazed by the plastic taffy being sold everywhere on the streets in Rome!

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While this little guy kept “roaring” at us and toddling around chasing pigeons in the square!

Okay, I understand if this is impossible. Because Italy is teeming with cuteness like the above. It’s like everywhere we went, there’s a basset hound or Golden Retriever or shih-tzu sniffing around. And they’re all so well-behaved!

And the tots! They were all so precious I just wanted to squish them!!

 

12. Lastly, always keep your GPS on

Google Maps was our saviour for the entire trip. It also helps that we had Liz, who is actually good at map-reading, to save us all.

 

So, where to next? Any recommendations? I’m thinking Sicily, Florence, and Naples. Or maybe Versailles. Or Positano. Or Santorini. Or Wales! Sigh. So many places, so little time (and so little money).

Oh and if you have any travel tips, do share them in the Comments section below too! Off to dream about the next holiday now. Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead! :0)

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