Backpacking in Northern Italy (and San Marino)

backpacking in italy with graham anderson

Backpacking/drinking in Italy with my travel buddy. Yes, this was real dyed green hair!

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.

1. Venice

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…

average city venice

That’s me in San Marco Square, backpacking in Venice – didn’t really like it!!

2. Pisa

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.

jonny blair in pisa

At the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Loved Pisa more than Venice.

3. Trieste

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.

jonny blair in trieste

Nightfall in Trieste – backpacking my way through this gem of an “off the beaten track” city near the Slovenian border.

4. Florence

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.

florence cathedral italy

Backpacking in Florence – the massive Cathedral!

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!

san marino city jonny blair

Backpacking through the snow in San Marino City!

Here’s my stuff on Trieste, Pisa and the San Marino border so far covered in a bit more detail.

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!)

san marino city hostel views

Views from San Marino City from my HOSTEL WINDOW!

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:

2 thoughts on “Backpacking in Northern Italy (and San Marino)

  • I loved San Marino City. The views were outstanding – go in winter for better weather too – lots of snow! Giving myself a bookmark back to this article when i’m ready to buy for a trip.

  • Hi Shiela, thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed San Marino. Apologies for the late response. I have been suffering from deep depression the last few years caused by liars and I haven’t checked or responded so quickly. Stay safe. Jonny

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