Italy has always fascinated me, as a self-proclaimed history geek the amount of influence the country has had on the developing world is only beaten by its stunning landscape and culture. Whether you’re visiting the extravagant and lavish villas at Lake Como, marvelling at the ‘floating’ city of Venice or taking a trip back in time to the ancient city of Rome, there’s something for everyone in Italy whether you’re a solo traveller, with a partner or looking for a family retreat, and that’s why I love it.
In Italy there’s so much culture you don’t know where to start
Perfect for those looking for a holiday that is truly unique, the canals of Venice will instantly make you grab for your camera. Tight, cobbled streets will seem like a maze at first, but leave the map back in the hotel, Venice’s best hidden gems are those stumbled across by chance and are well off the beaten track. Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark’s Basilica are must-see’s, but unless you want to play close to €20 for a Coca Cola and a Panini, avoid the cafe’s on the square in favour of venturing down a side-street to save yourself almost 50%.
Everywhere you turn in Rome you’ll find a new landmark. Whether its the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum or Vatican City, every attraction on the bucket list is within walking distance. Plan carefully though, most attractions have ridiculously long queues (Vatican and Colosseum especially) so ensure you purchase your tickets in advance and arrive early. We arrived at the Vatican at 2pm to be told they were already taking the final people in for the final tour of the day at 6pm – I don’t know about you but if I only have two days in a city I don’t want to spend 4 hours standing in a queue!
Steeped in Ancient history, be sure to take your camera (or in my case my trusted Samsung Galaxy S8) and snap away at every landmark. The beauty of Rome is that is can be admired whilst simply walking around, if you’re on a time constraint you can appreciate the beauty of whats-on-offer without the need to purchase a ticket to each attraction, however if you do want to get the most out of Rome, purchase a 48-hour or 72-hour Roma Pass.
Home to some of the World’s rich and famous such as George Clooney, Como and it’s surrounding towns is the perfect break for those wanting to unwind. To make the most of it, book a hire car so that you can explore all that is on offer (alternatively you can use the water taxi’s for around the same price, but the car will offer more freedom). For those looking to add a bit of Italian style to their wardrobe, visit the luxurious Bellagio, where Italian Silk lines the streets and your wallet will be empty within minutes.
For a quiet afternoon head to Varenna and sit in one of the many cafe’s overlooking the lake, simply taking in the astonishing views. The antipasti here is incredible too!
Speaking of food, no matter what your culinary tastes, Italy caters. From incredible pizza to fresh pasta, aromatic coffee to perfectly cooked fish, you can’t go wrong. Other than the taste, you’ll be shocked by how cheap most of the food is (aside from tourist hotspots) and just how many courses the Italians love to eat.
Turn to Trip Advisor, find local restaurants and enjoy some of the finest foods on offer. Simplicity is the key here in Italy, so don’t go to a Pizzeria expecting to get your usual ‘Texas Meat Feast’ from Dominoes, to even ask for a second meat on a pizza will attract a strange look from the waiter.
Perfect for road trips
For those who love going on an adventure, book a hire car and venture out of the city. Between Christmas and New Year I ventured down to the Amalfi Coast from Rome with my better half for her birthday, and being the car nut I am the journey itself was one of the highlights of my holiday. The trip from Rome takes around 3 hours and costs €16.90 in tolls, but the view once you are there is completely worth it and both of us were instantly captivated by the beauty of the coastline. Famous for its winding, tight roads, the Amalfi drive is makes for some insanely beautiful moments behind the wheel (as well as some hair-raising ones with on-coming buses – be warned!).
The pace of Amalfi, Positano and Sorrento is a stark contrast to the more vibrant capital, but for ultimate relaxation, walk along the Amalfi pier, grab some fresh Italian Gelato and just absorb the fantastic view – no entrance fees are required here!
But let’s not forget the Tifosi…
Now this wouldn’t be a Life In Pole Position blog without me somehow incorporating motorsport into it now would it? Thankfully this summer I was able to live out a childhood dream and visit the infamous Monza Formula 1 circuit.
Although not for an official F1 weekend, I sat for hours at the Variante Del Rettifilo chicane during a GT test day. Although the circuit itself is as maintained as others like Silverstone or Spa Francorchamps, my inner-child was buzzing with excitement as I watched Ferrari’s, Mercedes-AMG’s and McLaren’s all blast around at breath-taking speed.
Free to roam when there isn’t a race weekend on, and with driving experiences available, I recommend to anyone with interest in motorsport to pay the historical circuit a visit, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
When to go?
All year round! While summer can attract temperatures of 25°+ even in winter a light jacket will keep you warm, and you’ll notice the difference in lack of tourists. Be careful though if you plan to visit somewhere like Amalfi or Capri in the winter though, as many hotels and tourist attractions close for the off-peak season.