All year, Italy had been captivating my social media feeds with stunning images of the Amalfi Coast and mouth-watering Italian cuisine. Everyone I spoke to who has been there, couldn't stop raving about their trip. Naturally, I was super excited and had high expectations for my own trip.
I've been to many European countries prior to Italy, many of which I absolutely adored and would happily visit again. However, I have to be honest - Italy didn't live up to all the hype for me. I know it's not a popular opinion, but I've come to realize that not every place will capture my heart in the same way and that's okay.
I'm sharing my experiences to help you avoid the mistakes I made, so you can experience a better and more fulfilling trip to Italy.
I decided to take this trip in the summer month of July, most definitely one of the hottest times to go. Despite having experienced humidity in places like India and Bali, where I thought I might pass out from the heat, the scorching temperatures in Italy had an even more severe impact that resulted in me taking a trip to the hospital. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one affected, as I witnessed a young boy collapsing from the heat at the Colosseum. Engaging in any outdoor activities, proved to be an immense challenge.
From what I have researched, the heat wave in July of 2022 was atypical compared to normal times. However, it is important to keep this rising temperature in mind, as our planet continues to battle climate change.
Tip: Choose to visit Italy during the off-season as it will allow you to enjoy milder weather and a more comfortable experience.
Since it was my first time in Italy, I opted to explore the popular areas, which, as expected, were incredibly crowded. What caught me off guard was the overwhelming lack of space in Italy. The influx of visitors was so immense that finding space became a daunting task, particularly at the beaches and the Blue Grotto in Capri.
The Blue Grotto in Capri is also a popular tourist spot and definitely an experience. Hundreds of people line up on land and by boat to take a small boat into a tiny opening of a cave to see the stunning glowing blue water. While the water is breathtaking, the ride is too short, overcrowded, and pricey. It's simply not enough time to appreciate the beauty of the cave.
Tip: Another reason to consider visiting Italy in the off-season as fewer people will allow you to comfortably enjoy your surroundings without feeling overwhelmed.
Despite the fact that tap water in Italy is generally safe to drink everywhere, I found it frustrating that many establishments insisted on selling bottled water. It seemed unjust that a country capable of offering clean tap water would limit access to it during its hottest time of year.
Tip: Bring a reusable water bottle with you and keep an eye out for public water taps in bigger cities to refill your water bottle. Some restaurants may also generously fill it for you at no additional cost.
The most memorable food experience I had in Italy was when I participated in a cooking class in Rome and learned to make wood-fired pizza and pasta. Some other good places are listed in the photos below.
Having grown up in Toronto I have had the privilege of tasting some incredibly authentic Italian meals that I have absolutely fallen in love with. So you can imagine my disappointment when the food just didn't hit the spot the same on this trip. Although I appreciated the freshness of the ingredients in Italy, I found the flavours to be more subtle than expected. I'm a sucker for a good cannoli but my biggest disappointment was when the one I had in Rome was sticky and tasted like bubblegum. Despite my efforts to research and find highly recommended eateries, there were unfortunately long wait times, only to be met with disappointing meals.
A few memorable meals in Italy
Tip: It's possible that my experience would have been different if I had been able to venture into the local areas or countryside where the food is said to be exceptional. If you have the chance, I encourage you to explore beyond the popular tourist areas and indulge in authentic local cuisine that may differ from popular tourist spots.
In the Italian cities I visited, I was expecting more of a nightlife scene. A group of us girls were looking forward to hitting up bars and going out dancing but were disappointed to find limited options and most places closing early. In Rome, we managed to find a bar, but we were stuck outside in a tiny space where people crammed in with no music playing. When I asked a local about the nightlife in Venice, they told me that the usual thing to do is have a drink at a restaurant and then call it a night.
Tip: This is not to say Italy doesn't have a nightlife scene. While some cities like Milan and Positano are known for their nightlife, others may have limited options or close early. Take the time to discover the best places to enjoy a night out based on your preferences.
What I would do differently?
Italy may not have lived up to my expectations, but that doesn't mean it won't be for you. By keeping your expectations in check, making the most of your trip, and being open to exploring different aspects of the country, you can create a memorable experience.
If I were to revisit Italy, I would plan my trip during the offseason to avoid the crowds and sweltering heat. This would allow me to enjoy a more relaxed and comfortable experience. I would also adopt a slower travel style by extending my stay in each location, giving me ample time to explore the local areas and countryside. Renting a car would be a priority, granting me the freedom to venture off the beaten path and discover hidden gems. Lastly, I wouldn't hesitate to indulge in some luxury experiences, such as renting a boat to cruise along the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri.
Have you had a memorable trip to Italy? Share your experiences and what made your visit special in the comments below. If you are planning on visiting Italy, let me know if my experience helped you plan a more enjoyable and rewarding experience!