I had avoided Italy until 2008 but have since had three blasts at it and loved every moment of backpacking through it, even though I do slag Venice off below. It’s a big country though so I have more plans to head to the centre and south of Italy at some point on my next European travel adventure as I’ve only ever gone backpacking in Northern Italy so far. I’m keen to see Pompeii, Milan, Rome and Sicily at some point. Plus I do “count my countries” and so a trip to the Vatican would be an “easy way to add one to the list!!” When I was in Italy, I used trains and buses, but prefer the trains. More relaxing and faster. Here’s a quick 5 cities in Italy I have been to…and a brief overview.
Yes, I did the cliched thing and went to Venice. Rode the gondola, headed to Rialto Bridge, drank coffee in the day time and wine at night. Went to loads of parts of the city on a weekly boat pass and chilled out at Lido Beach. While it’s not really for a budget backpacker, it was worth splashing out a bit extra just to see it. Believe it or not, I don’t really like Venice. It’s just not for me…
I loved Pisa – we did the Leaning Tower of course and enjoyed a really good night out there. It’s a very old city with not a great deal of commercial influence and its charm will remain.
Not an obvious backpacker city by any means but completely random. It’s advantage is it sits near the Slovenia border and we “used it” as our entrance and gateway to Slovenia. We managed to catch a direct bus from Trieste to Ljubljana. Trieste has some awesome old architecture, city walls, decent views and some good bars. If you read my blog a lot you will know I love getting off the beaten track and Trieste was one of those places.
Florence is famous for its cathedral, a pretty square, a few decent art galleries and fantastic architecture. At night it livens up and seems to have a studenty vibe.
5. San Marino City
Not actually in Italy I know but the I loved San Marino City and we got there by bus from Rimini. A city high up in the mountains, and the capital of a country inside a country. Italy has two of these “country within a country” places with San Marino and The Vatican State. To relax, I’d recommend a few days in San Marino too! The views were outstanding – go in winter for better weather too – lots of snow!
In terms of getting around, generally I would advise booking your trains on the day you are leaving and at the train station. Yes, you might have to wait a few hours, but Italian train stations are decent enough. Beer, coffee and adequate seating. Carry an Italian guide book and note the shortened names of cities on train schedules. It’s not really that hard to get by.
A few places to stay while backpacking in Northern Italy…
– Our random hostel in Trieste (loved this place actually – Affita Camere Ghega!)
– A great Hotel in Santa Cristina (cracking views)
– A cool hostel in Pisa (good location)
– We also stayed in this San Marino City hostel (again great views, see photo below)
– Pisa Airport (this was unintentional – a flight cancellation meant a night’s kip there!)
A few of my videos…
My video from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa:
Getting a bus out of San Marino in the mountains:
Classical Music in Venice: