Italy. The beginning!
Itinerary: Milan, Venice, Florence, La Spezia/Cinque Terre. (The travel bug has bitten me hard!)
This trip started out as a reunion with the 30+ people I shared a wonderful experience with on a mission trip in Brazil. It quickly faded to just me! Well, and three of the Italians, who will be meeting me for the weekend. Mari was my roommate in Brazil, I am so excited to see her! (Let's not forget also Roby, Cinzia, and Enrico!)
About a week and a half before the trip, it kind of all fell apart. I had to re-plan and re book my trip ASAP. I was definitely panicking a bit! I immediately began investigating; texting friends and scouring the Internet. I had most of the important stuff mapped out within a couple hours!
The first thing I would check out if you're looking to experience things on a more local level, and also looking for places to stay for free (yes FREE) definitely look up couchsurfing.com. You can talk to many people all over the world who are willing to share their homes with you, or are at least willing to go out and show you around and spend time with you! I managed to line up exploring buddies for most of my trip with only about a weeks notice, and the offers are still rolling in! You can also turn on location services to see who is nearby and wanting to go out at any time!
If you are not keen on staying in the homes of strangers you can definitely find cheap deals online for both hostels and private rooms. I have had the best luck with booking.com and eurocheapo.com. AirBnB is also another great resource! I managed to book rooms for five days in four different cities for around $325. Not too shabby at all! In Venice and Florence I am staying in women's dorms at hostels, in La Spezia and Malpensa I am staying in private rooms in hotels. All of my rooms have really great ratings and reviews. I will provide updates after my trip!
Now, you also need some way to get around. I picked a few cities and booked a few train trips. If you don't want to be on a schedule, you can grab a train at any time. If you like to have a plan, like me, can book all your tickets online in advance! The best deal I found was through italiarail.com. I also opted in for the italiapass, which gave me no service fees, plus discounts on all kinds of things all over Italy. Not only did I get a great deal on all of my train trips, but I also received coupons and discounts for tours, restaurants and shops! I don't know about you, but I love me some discounts ;)
Most things I decided to not book ahead, as I was not sure what my travels would bring me. I did make one dinner reservation in advance, because it seemed like a popular place that could get booked up. Of course, I have a coupon for it! Free antipasto and 15% off my bill; thank you, italiapass. I also booked an all day bus tour out of Florence ahead of time; again, it sounded like something that may book up. The bus trip is a tour through the Chianti countryside, stopping in 2-3 towns and a wine estate. Lunch and wine tastings are provided.. I was sold! I also got 10% off this tour thanks to italiapass.
As for the rest of my trip, I will figure it out as I go along! I may buy a hop on hop off boat ticket in Venice, so I can cruise around the island, or go out to LIdo, Murano or burano. I may also have to hop on a gondola ride. In Florence I may pick up a walking tour or wander by myself. From La Spezia I may take a boat or train north a few cities and hike my way back, or vice versa. No matter what I do, I will be enjoying myself, taking a lot of pictures, and eating all the food! I am so excited!
I wrote this while in flight, a couple hours before touchdown in Milan. The beauty of writing, is that you can do it anywhere! I will keep updating as I can! You can follow along my journey by following my Instagram www.instagram.com/_akrphoto.com Many pictures to come! Photo galleries will be uploaded once I am back in the states.
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