ITALY TRAVEL GUIDE: TUSCANY, POSITANO & ROME
With every little town and every street wandered down, Italy became more and more perfect. Dreamy, rich with so much history and culture, there is something for everyone to fall in love with. I have previously been to Italy on many other occasions, and this time around I was travelling through Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast and Rome with my dear friend Leah, also known as The Wander Leaf on Instagram. Leah and I had met once prior to the trip, a day out in Dublin over a year and a half ago, so it was a pretty bold move to travel throughout Italy with a near stranger. Nevertheless, we were both eager for the adventure to begin.
I was flying from Budapest to Rome the day before I was meeting Leah. My Ryanair flight cost £67 including baggage and after staying up all night, leaving for the airport at 3:30am and finally arriving in Italy a little too tired to function, I managed to get to my hostel (Alessandro Palace) and slept on the couch until I could check in. I spent the night exploring Rome solo and had a dinner of olives and bread, before taking a bus the next morning to Fiumicino airport to meet Leah. There are 3 main airports in and out of Rome, all with shuttle buses running out of Termini, Fiumicino also has an express train which is a little more expensive. Shuttles cost anywhere from €5.90 - €8.90 one way and run every 20 minutes.
AGRITURISMO SANT' ANTONIO (1 NIGHT)
The perfect spot to stay so you can wake up early and enjoy Tuscany's thermal hot springs
MONTEPULCIANO (2 NIGHTS)
A beautiful medieval town right in the heart of central Italy, fall in love with every alley and turn as you wander through the streets
CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO (1 NIGHT)
A hilltop village that can only be accessed by pedestrian bridge. Civita is straight out of a fairytale book
POSITANO (3 NIGHTS)
Blue waters and lemon sorbet, Positano is a colourful dream
ROME (4 - 5 NIGHTS)
Home to one of the most powerful Empires in history, Rome will leave you speechless with its rich history
The amount we spent definitely fluctuated depending on what part of Italy we were in, with the Amalfi Coast taking the cake on being the priciest stop. Travelling through Tuscany wasn't overly expensive in terms of daily spending, most of the restaurants we ate at served cheap, local (and delicious) food or we would cook for ourselves. Our biggest expenses during this leg of the trip was our accomodation and the hire car, petrol and road tolls, which definitely added up quickly. Excluding our accomodation and car costs our daily expenses were between £30 - £50 a day, which covered our food, parking tickets, winery tours, etc.
Staying in Positano is definitely not the most budget friendly place in Italy, and while I was there I was trying to be conscious about what I was spending as it's pretty easy to get carried away with all the nice, expensive things the Amalfi Coast has to offer. For an 8 bed dorm it cost £30 a night, our food cost between £15 - £30 a day per person and bus tickets is only €1.20 (or you can walk for free). While I was in Positano I got away with spending £25 - £40 a day (excluding accomodation) however I definitely think you could stay for cheaper, especially if you booked accomodation in Sorrento or Amalfi and caught the bus to different towns.
Rome was the cheapest part of the trip with plenty of hostels to choose from and tasty local tavernas to eat at, we were spoilt for choice. For a day in Rome £20 - £40 (excluding accomodation) should be more than enough but I would recommend budgeting a little more just in case you want to visit any attractions!
The first part of our trip was around the beautiful countryside of Tuscany. The winding roads, fields and vineyards we drove through stretched out for miles as we sang old hits and snacked on olives. We rented a car with Avis for the 4 nights throughout our road trip, which is pretty much essential if you plan on travelling through Tuscany. Each little town was cuter than the next and we found ourselves pulling over pretty frequently to stop for photos and to have a little look. Tuscany was definitely the most expensive part of the trip with our accomodation costing between £60 - £80 a night split between two of us as well as the cost of the car and our daily expenses, we probably spent £1000 between two of us for our time through central Italy (definitely worth it).
RENTING A CAR IN TUSCANY
Tuscany is such a beautiful part of Italy that needs to be explored by car for many reasons. It would be nearly impossible to visit central Italy without having your own mode of transport as there is next to none buses or trains that would be able to take you into the heart of the Tuscan countryside. For 5 days (4 nights) car hire we paid £280 between two of us, with an extra £100 for petrol and £30 for road tolls, adding up to £410 (£205 per person) for our time in Tuscany. While that is quite pricey for such a short amount of time, having a car really gave us freedom to create our own itinerary and stop off where we wanted.
OUR TUSCANY ROUTE
Agriturismo Sant' Antonio - 1 night
Montepulciano - 2 nights
Civita Di Bagnoregio - 1 night
We drove from Fiumicino airport to our first stop in Tuscany - Agriturismo Sant' Antonio. It was roughly a 3 hour drive and after having to stop at McDonalds for about an hour to get wifi to download maps, we finally arrived at around 9pm. The next morning we were up before the crack of dawn to visit one of the most anticipated parts of the trip, Tuscany's thermal baths. Cascate del Mulino was a 20 minute drive from our Airbnb and is probably the most well known baths which are free to use and open for 24 hours.
We arrived at around 6am and there were already a noticeable amount of people enjoying the hot waters. It was unlike anything else I've ever seen and even though we had wished for the baths to be just ours for a little, it was still super magical. When you're getting to the baths the roads can be quite confusing, so make sure you have the right place on maps, otherwise you can end up at the Cascate del Mulino spa, which is a paid members club. If you're hoping to get time in the baths alone, I would recommend getting there quite early, as it seemed the locals were already very set up by the time we were arriving - I've even read blogs that say they got there at 3am!
You can check out the Airbnb we stayed at here.
Montepulciano was the second stop on our road trip and is one of the bigger towns in the Tuscan region. Known for its wines, this medieval town is surrounded by vineyards and rolling green hills. It was another 3 and a bit hour drive from our first nights accomodation to Montepulciano, and for our second accomodation we stayed in another very sweet Airbnb just outside of the city. We spent two nights in Montepulciano, which was the perfect amount of time. You can easily see the whole town in a day and I really enjoyed walking around the streets and discovering new little alleys and lookouts. All streets seem to connect back to the main centre so there is no need to worry about getting lost!
Both mornings we were in Montepulciano we had breakfast at Caffé Poliziano, a beautiful 1920's feeling cafe with unbelievable balcony views over the scenery surrounding the town. A croissant and a coffee cost €5 and kept us going until lunchtime. We spent our time wandering through the streets while trying not to eat every single thing we saw in the restaurants we walked passed. The town had more to do and see than a lot of other Tuscan towns we drove through and seemed to be more of a hub for tourists and locals alike.
On the last morning before leaving for Civita we decided to make a stop off at Icario Winery, a local vineyard. This was a definite must and we loved learning about the rich wine history in the region. A wine tasting cost €15 which included trying 6 wines and at the end you're free to choose your favourite to sit up on the rooftop and enjoy the view of the vineyard.
The final stop on our Tuscan trip was Civita di Bagnoregio, another medieval town that can only be accessed via a pedestrian bridge. We stayed at the only Airbnb in Civita which you can check out here, which had views of San Donato church right outside the door. We stocked up at a supermarket in Montepulciano before arriving at Civita as we already knew the struggle of trying to find groceries in smaller towns. We planned on cooking homemade pasta at the Airbnb for dinner, then we bought enough snacks to last us through the afternoon and until lunchtime the next day. One night is all you need in Civita, or you can even opt to make it a day trip!
Our Airbnb host met us in the nearby town of Bagnoregio and drove in front of us to show us where we could park before embarking on the very windy, very steep pedestrian bridge to Civita. Staying in Civita was such a unique experience, it's a tiny town which seemed packed with tourists during the day but eerily quiet at night (there are only a couple of places tourists can stay in the town). You can easily walk from one side to the other in under 10 minutes, and at each edge you at met with a deep gorge and cascading cliffs with other nearby villages perched on top.
The Amalfi coast was the next stop on our Italy trip. We had a long day of travel from Civita di Bagnoregio, starting at 8am, we drove our rental car back to Fiumicino airport which took around 2 and a half hours. After dropping off the car we got a shuttle bus into the centre of Rome, then a train to Naples, another train to Salerno, a bus to Amalfi and finally another bus to Positano.
Positano has become an iconic must see while travelling in Italy. It's blue waters and cascading multicoloured buildings are wildly beautiful and I loved exploring what the Amalfi coast had to offer. While it is beautiful, the region has become a tourist hub and I found everything was double (if not more) the price of what things usually cost in other parts of Italy. People will charge you €50 to use a sun lounger for a day on the beach, cocktails will cost €10 - €15 and a lemon sorbet in a lemon is €8! It is hard to keep costs low when in Positano but it's not impossible!
HOW TO GET TO POSITANO
While this is the route we took, I wouldn't recommend it. It took us so long to get to Positano and so many changes of transport, by the time we got to our hostel it had taken over 10 hours to get from A to B. We also had a whole dilemma on our final bus where no one would let us off so we ended up missing our stop in Poistano and ended up going another 20 minutes to another town, meaning we had to wait another 40 minutes for the bus going back the other way to come pick us up. Our route back to Rome was much smoother and this is the way I would recommend getting to and from Positano:
Rome Termini get the train to Naples
From Naples get the train to Sorrento
From Sorrento get the bus to Positano
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at Brikette hostel, the only hostel in Positano. It was clean but didn't really hold a huge amount of atmosphere, nor did it have a kitchen to cook in. The hostel offered a small bar (which was a window in a wall), which meant a few people hung around on the balcony during the night time and they also offered breakfast and coffee in the morning at an additional cost (which was surprisingly tasty). The only real downside to this hostel is I got bed bugs, however no one else in my room did so I wouldn't be nervous to stay here again if I had to!
HOW TO GET AROUND
If you plan on going from town to town on the Amalfi coast there are plenty of different buses that run at least once an hour and can take you along the coast. Within Positano there is also a bus service that Leah and I used pretty frequently which takes you from the bottom of the town, near the beach, up to the road the hostel is on. We took the bus because the climb up was pretty ruthless, especially when it's super hot outside. With the majority of bus services you have to pre purchase your tickets, which you can buy from news agents, little grocery store and tobacco shops. I would recommend buying tickets in bulk if you know you're going to be using the buses a few times while you're staying in Positano.
WHAT TO DO IN POSITANO
Fornillo beach is a quieter beach located around the corner from the main beach of Positano. To find this little haven walk down to the main beach and then take the path to the right of the beach and walk for about 10 minutes. You'll stumble upon it and its colourful umbrellas! Fornillo has the most beautiful, clear water and if you don't want to pay for beach chairs you can walk right down to the end and sit there for free.
There are endless bars that have unbelievable views of Positano, and while their views are as dreamy as ever, a lot of them are very pricy bars and hotels. Le Sirenuse is a very expensive hotel located next to the famous Franco's Bar, however you can walk straight through their reception area onto their balcony which has unbelievable scenes of the classic Positano view.
WHERE TO EAT IN POSITANO
RISORANTE C'ERA UNA VOLTA
Most places in Positano are super expensive to eat at and because there was no kitchen at the hostel, there wasn't much choice but to eat out during our stay. Luckily, across from our hostel was a taverna which had the most delicious, cheap food around! Pasta and pizza was €5, wine was €2.50 and the bruschetta (which was to die for) cost €3 for a whole plate!
La Zagara is the perfect breakfast spot located down one of the main alleys on the way to the beach. The little bakery is perfect for a morning croissant and coffee or a lunchtime snack of pizza. It's a little bit pricey for what it is however the food is delicious and filling. If you go you have to try a cannelloni, the pistachio one is to absolutely die for.
BAR DEL COVO DEI SARAENI
Located right by the main beach, Bar del Covo dei Saraeni is where we bought our delicious lemon sorbet in a lemon! The large one costs €8 so it's not cheap but seeing as Positano is known for it's citrus, we thought it was a must and it was so worth it. Especially when it's a hot summers day!
Rome is a city that you can rediscover and re explore every single time with something new to see and do everyday. I have been to Rome many times before and had never really been in love with the city, so going back was a chance to try again. The city is big, chaotic, hot and in parts, quite dirty, I recommend exploring during the early hours of the morning to avoid the heat (and the strange people lurking around at night).
The majority of hostels in Rome are located right by Termini, the main train station, and during my time in the city I stayed in three of them. As previously mentioned, the first night in Rome before meeting up with Leah I stayed in Alessandro Palace, then once we had travelled through Tuscany and Positano and returned to Rome, Leah and I stayed in The Yellow hostel, and finally the Generator. It's important to mention that Termini isn't the safest area and if you plan on walking around at night there are a lot of sketchy people and homeless who might pickpocket or harass you, so be vigilant.
Our favourite by far had to be the Yellow and is one of my all time favourite hostels I've ever stayed in. The concept was that pretty much everything on the street where the hostel was, was owned by Yellow. Everything from the Yellow bar, restaurants, laundromat, gelato shop, bike rental and so on was all part of the company, creating a really unique vibe - the hostel even had it's own escape room and barber inside.
WHAT TO DO IN ROME
Trastevere is by far my favourite part of Rome and is a maze of vibrant buildings, little alleyways and thick green vines. Leah and I spent two of the four days we were in Rome in the Trastevere neighbourhood and would have happily gone back again if we had the time. From Termini you can get the H bus which takes about 20 minutes and runs relatively regularly. If you're a big foodie there are endless options to eat at and it is also a perfect place for photographers, too!
An obvious must is to visit the Colosseum when in Rome. I've never been inside, however I don't think it is completely necessary to pay the €20 for entry! It does get insanely busy throughout the day and especially at sunset so choose when you go wisely!
Another obvious choice for visitors is Trevi Fountain. It is a masterpiece and you can't help but be amazed by it, especially since it looks a lot bigger in real life! Much like the Colosseum it gets wildly busy, even from sunset which is when I chose to visit. There are Guards right from the crack of dawn who watch the fountain and will tell you off for putting your feet up on the sides if you are trying to get photo.
A former Roman Temple which has since turned into a Catholic Church, the Pantheon is absolutely stunning. It is easy to walk from Termini to the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon in a morning if you're looking to walk around before the hot Italian sun hits.
WHERE TO EAT IN ROME
IL GELATO DI CREMILLA
Italy is the home to delicious gelato and this was among the best we had during our time in Italy. It is located in the Termini train station so it's a little more expensive than the average but it was so delicious and creamy the price was absolutely worth it
LA FORCHETTA D'ORO
It was just a random google search that brought us to this little Taverna. The cheap price point was the most exciting prospect, and while the food wasn't amazing, we were filled to the brim with wine, bruschetta and pasta for a total of €7.50 each, which was by far the cheapest we had eaten in Rome
LI RIONI A SANTIQUATTRO
After another google search, Li Rioni a Santiquattro was named one of the top ten best restaurants in Rome, so Leah and I, along with a few boys from the hostel all met there for dinner. It's located about a 15 minute walk away from the Colosseum and specialises in pizza and calzones
MIMI & COCO
We stumbled upon Mimi and Coco when wandering around Trastevere. With 1920's Art Deco inspired interior and plenty of seating outside, this is the perfect stop off for a glass of wine and people watching, plus they give you a free plate of bruschetta which is absolutely mouth watering
PASTA E' VINO OSTERIA
You know those moments when your jaw drops. That is what happened when walking past the window of Pasta e' Vino Osteria. If you're looking for somewhere that makes fresh, classically Italian pasta, this must be at the top of your list!
FIOR DI LUNA
Another amazing gelato shop for you to try with a heap of vegan options to choose from. For di Luna is located in the heart of Trastevere and is the perfect treat for walking around and exploring
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