By Ryan Shook — May 30, 2015 —
This year I spent my spring semester studying abroad in Barcelona. The experience was life-changing for many reasons, including the opportunity to travel to so many interesting destinations across Europe. When studying abroad, however, you quickly learn that you can’t possibly do it all. Choices have to be made. Perhaps most difficult is trying to figure out how to fit the most into Spring Break.
In the end, my friends and I decided to visit Italy for a week. We went to the Amalfi Coast, Rome, and Florence, and we had the time of our LIVES!
What follows is a summary of our amazing itinerary. I hope that this guide might help others who are curious about a fun plan for 7 days in Italy on a budget.
Day 1: Sorrento, Italy (Amalfi Coast)
8 PM: After flying into Naples, we took a train to the town of Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast. Then we quickly unpacked and proceeded to the English Inn. This place got real rowdy, real quick. Lots of drink specials, great music, lots of fun.
Day 2: Capri, Italy
9AM: The next morning, we left the hotel and bought tickets to go on a private boat excursion around the island of Capri (for 80 euro – 5 hours of sail, lunch, pickup/drop-off provided). After a short power nap on the boat cruise, my friends and I woke to the most amazing landscape we had ever seen. Rocky cliffs, baby blue water — add in some cold Peroni beer to accompany the scenery . . . you get the idea. After a couple of hours, we docked at the island, bought a massive bottle of wine, and parked ourselves on the beach. When the bottle was finished, I managed to muster up enough confidence to enter the water (Note: always remember to wear sunscreen — the sun was hot!). Four hours later, we returned to the boat and headed back to Sorrento. It had been a long day.
Day 3: Rome, Italy
2 PM: After a long train ride from Sorrento to Rome, we finally arrived and checked into our hostel. We got there pretty late, and set out a game plan for the following days, explored the area a little and had dinner at a local restaurant.
10:30 PM: Went to a bar called The Drunken Ship. It was a fun bar, pretty American, cheap drinks, good company. Stayed there for a while, then headed to another nearby place called Grottapinta Lounge Roma, which was another cool bar and less American.
Day 4: Rome, Italy
10 AM: We began the day with a tour of the Colosseum – this was my 2nd favorite part about the trip. For 15 euros it was an absolutely amazing experience — I kept imagining the crazy and bloodied scene of various gladiators duking it out in a battle for life or death. (Note: wait in line – it goes by pretty fast if you’re patient). After the Colosseum, we ventured up into the Roman Forum, which was also an impressive historic site.
1 PM: We proceeded to hit the Spanish Steps. Honestly, in my opinion, this place is a little overrated. I’ll admit there is something cool about the area that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the nearby shopping. And I definitely do not know the history. But, I mean, they’re just steps.
From there we went to the Trevi Fountain. This is an impressive building with a huge fountain that includes sculptures of horses, chariots and ancient heroes. Like everyone else, we threw some coins into the water and made a wish!
Following that, we went to the Pantheon, which is two thousand years old and the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Simply put, it’s an inspiring structure. There is also a cool plaza in the front of the Pantheon, and we enjoyed the opportunity to sit down, rest our feet, and eat copious amounts of gelato, kebabs, and miscellaneous Italian food.
8 PM: Later that night, we went to a restaurant called Tony’s (Osteria del Moro da Tony). It was great – UNBELIEVABLE food, all you can eat, and all the wine you can drink too. We shoveled down 7 plates of appetizers, 4 huge dishes of pasta and dessert, along with 10 bottles of wine. Yep, I’m all about that.
11 PM: We went to a bar called Sloppy Sams – my favorite bar of the whole trip. This place has cheap shots (2-3 euro), pitchers of beer for around 10 euro, beer pong tables, as well as a dance floor available once you’ve had enough drinks to not care about dancing like an idiot (as I did).
Day 5: Rome, Italy
10 AM: You must schedule a couple hours for a tour of the Vatican. Make sure to either a) buy tickets online beforehand; or b) buy tickets to “skip the line.” The regular waiting line was over five hours for the Vatican and around two hours for St. Peter’s Basilica – and ain’t nobody got time for that! During the tour, you’ll get to the Sistine Chapel. They don’t want you taking pictures, but if you’re sneaky and have good peripheral vision and awareness, you’re fine – it’s worth the risk. St. Peter’s Basilica was awesome as well.
4 PM: We left Rome by train to reach Florence. Florence was a great place to see friends and chill out, and it felt much less touristy and focused on sightseeing than Rome had been. Anyway, we napped, got some quick dinner, and then went out.
Midnight: We went to a cool place called the Space Club. This establishment has a different kind of payment policy — you don’t pay for drinks while consuming; instead, you just get a card at the door that gets stamped every time you order a drink. Then, upon leaving, you pay at the door. We had a great time there and all spent around 25 euro.
Day 6: Florence, Italy
11 AM: We woke up and walked to the Duomo. This is the most famous structure in Florence, and one of the coolest churches that I have ever seen. The exterior contains marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white.
12:30 PM: We went to a sandwich place called Antico Vinaio – unreal sandwiches. Honestly, these were some of the best I have ever had, and only around 5 euros. If you go to Florence, you MUST go there. The employees were absolutely hilarious, too. Of course, following the meal, I indulged a gelato (a regular habit of mine in Italy).
5:30 PM: We met up with about 12-13 friends and went to a place called Trattoria Pizzeria Dante’s, which had unlimited wine and the BEST ravioli I have ever had in my life. The pasta was impeccable – it cost 13 euro, but worth it.
10:30 PM: I was still hungry, so I got kebabs at a place called Mesopotamia. They were some of the best kebabs I’ve ever had (and I’m addicted to kebabs — see my other post on Wegozo for a guide to the best in Europe!).
Midnight: We went to a club called TwentyOne, which was a little smaller than Space Club (see below), and not as hip. The door cover and payment system was the same, however, and it was still a great time!
Day 7: Florence, Italy:
11 AM: We met up with some buddies and went to the Ponte Vecchio, the city’s iconic central bridge. This area was super cool, but — like the Spanish Steps — it had a lot of places to shop and I’m ballin’ on a budget so I just admired the stores and enjoyed more gelato.
2 PM: We went to the top of Piazza Michelangelo. This area has a view of the entire city – unbelievable. We each got our own bottles of wine (yes, I know, don’t say it) and finished them on the steps overlooking the picturesque expanse below.
4 PM: To get our last meal, we went to a restaurant called Gusta Pizza, which has truly excellent pizza (the best I ate all trip). For about five euro I had an entire pizza to myself and was moderately full (I eat a lot).
8 PM: We checked out of our hostel, and hopped on a train back to Barcelona.
You absolutely must visit Italy. We only saw a small part of the country, but we enjoyed some of the best views, people, food and fun times that I’ve had in my study abroad experience.
Let me know if you find some other good places, because I plan to return. Viva Italia!