This post has been a long time coming and I am so excited to share! This past June, Zack and I embarked on the most memorable trip of my life — ITALY! In 9 days, we saw 3 cities – Florence, Cinque Terre, & Rome. Before planning our trip, we asked friends, family & pretty much anyone else who had stepped foot in that country for recommendations on where to go, what to see, where to stay, etc. First of all, let me just say, I think you could go to Italy 5 different times and have a totally different experience every time you went. I would jump at any opportunity to return and go to more places. However, after asking around, the resounding recommendations of cities were:
2. Cinque Terre or Positano*
An overwhelming amount of our friends told us Florence was an absolute MUST see, so we knew we wanted to go there. We heard some mixed reviews on Rome, but ultimately felt like going to Italy and NOT seeing Rome was like going to New York without going to NYC. Then came the decision of Cinque Terre or Positano. I had dreeeeeamed of going to Positano since the idea of a trip to Italy started. However, once we started planning our itinerary, it became clear that Positano (which was totally south) and Cinque Terre (north) were in two opposite directions. To get the most out of our time there, we knew Cinque Terre was the best option for us ( AKA we will just have to go back and see Positano & the Almafi coast another time!;) ).
Now typically, I am a super Type-A personality and the one that likes to plan out a trip. However, Zack was set on this being a trip in which we just went with open schedules and a desire to explore. So we made our Airbnb reservations and that was it. Not a single. other. plan. Can I just say that was the best decision he / we could have possibly made? We were never ever on a time crunch to get to a certain place by a certain time, we stopped when we wanted to stop and went when we wanted to go. Our days in the city consisted of us wandering and finding our own little hidden gems of restaurants, gelato places, & coffee shops. Instead of following every single recommendation we got from blogs & friends/family, we took some key instructions & then made our own way for the rest of the trip. So I’m not blogging about this trip to tell YOU where to go, stay & what to see. But instead, so that I can have it in writing to look back on, and maybe you could learn from what we did. Our trip to Italy is was and is still so special to me because it was a huge learning experience for me. I saw how fun it can be to just walk out of your door in the morning and see where your feet take you – which is exactly what we did.
Our first stop was Florence. Let me just start off by saying that this is the most beautiful city I’ve EVER been in and is SEVERELY underrated, in my opinion. It is the most stunningly-preserved city that is lathered with gorgeous architecture, adorable little alleyways, insane viewpoints and chock-full of history. I am typically not into history, and didn’t think I had much of an appreciation for architecture UNTIL we went to Florence. I was literally enthralled by The Duomo, the main church in Italy with the largest brick dome ever made. The outside of the cathedral is made up of panels of marble with illustrations on them, and wraps around the hundreds of feet that the church spans. Imagine a MASSIVE cathedral with an exterior made up entirely of beautifully-detailed individual renaissance paintings. That’s The Duomo and it is breathtaking. Probably my biggest regret from the entire trip is not taking a tour of the inside because I’m sure I would have been even more obsessed with it than I already am.
Besides the Duomo, Florence offered so many other amazing sites. One of my top recommendations for anyone who goes to Florence would be to book a day tour with Italian Wheels for a lunch + wine tasting tour in Tuscany. Zack & I rented a 1950’s Fiat 500 (praise the Lord for a man who can drive stick shift👏🏼🙌🏼) and went with a guide + group of tourists through the country side and it was probably the one of the most fun days we’ve ever spent together. Besides it being beautiful scenery and delicious food/wine, it was so cool to meet other people from around the world and experience this part of Italy together. Each day we were in Florence, we just wandered the city on our own. By the end of the first day we were there, we had ran into almost every major ‘must-see’ landmark completely by chance and Zack’s adventurous spirit.
Our next stop was Cinque Terre, specifically Manarola, the town in which we stayed. We were both soo excited for Cinque Terre because SO many people had raved about it – and they were right too. We arrived late afternoon in Cinque Terre on a Tuesday, had planned to stay all of Wednesday, and leave Thursday morning. I had no idea this entire time that Zack was planning to propose there — which will be a whoooole other blog post I cannot wait to write about!😏 The afternoon that we got there, I was STILL jet-lagged (I hardly slept the whole trip – the time change is killer) and needed a nap. BAD move.👎🏼 I should have stuck it out and spent every minute exploring. So, I slept most of that day away and we went swimming in the ocean around sunset and had the best seafood dinner evvvvver.
Zack had been acting kind of weird the whole day we had been there… He (the most uninterested picture – taker ever) was wanting to go out and find good spots for us to take pictures for the next day. Even more so, he suggested that we wake up at 5 am the next morning to watch the sunrise.. which wasn’t totally weird UNTIL he suggested we dress ‘nicely’ to do that. I was just thrilled that he wanted to take nice pictures for once so I agreed. Haha. That next morning a lighting storm swept right over Cinque Terre and never touched the ground like it was forecasted too. The sky was cloudy but parting as the sun started to come up. We walked up to a gorgeous lookout point where Zack had me turn and face the ocean for what I thought was gonna be for a good IG pic (lol) and he set up two cameras – one to record video, one to take pictures on a time – and snuck up behind me on one knee. He asked me to be his wife that morning as the sun came up and it was absolutely, 100% as magical as it sounds. I CANT WAIT TO WRITE ABOUT IT MORE! 😍😭
We spent the rest of the day celebrating, facetiming friends and family and not announcing it on social media juuust yet. We went to city next to Manarola, a town called Riomaggore, for the day where we (mainly Zack) cliff-dived. I just jumped off a 10 foot rock to say I cliff dived in Italy and called it good. It was such a surreal feeling to be engaged and running around the most beautiful coast with the man I’m gonna spend forever with.
After Cinque Terre, we went to Rome. Which, to be honest, I don’t have tooo many good things to say about simply because we only had one full day there, it was in the upper 90’s, our tour guide of the Colloseum sucked (lol), and then we ran into an issue when we went to check in online for our flight home. Our airline had no history of us buying tickets home and it took about an hour to find a coffee shop with wifi, and another hour on the phone with the airline in that random coffee shop to sort it all out 😅 Looking back, we did Rome alllll wrong. We stayed on the super far outskirts of the town, spent too much money on a guided tour, & we went there last (when we were pretty much out of energy to explore). All we wanted to do was sit around and talk about the fact that we were engaged and stare at my ring…. well mainly me, but I’m sure Zack agrees 😉 So to sum up Rome, in one day we saw the Colloseum, the Trevii fountain, Pantheon, & Spanish steps – which, were all beautiful, but we definitely needed more time to sit and appreciate each place like we did in Florence.
All in all, our trip was the most fun we’ve ever had together. It was the most time we’ve ever spent together consecutively & alone, & it consisted of so many laughs, naps, food & adventure. I would strongly encourage anyone & everyone to go to Italy at once, and to go with an open mind, heart & schedule. The experience will never be what you planned for & because of that, it will be perfect.