I took my first trip to Italy. I started in Rome, then Florence, Milan, and finally Venice.
The short version is, Milan was best but over all I Italy didn't live up to the hype for me.
Flew into Rome and my friend was sick and rented a room by the airport the first night. The next day we took the train into Rome to our hotel. First Rome experience, getting ripped off by unlicensed Taxi drivers. I'm sure some guidebook would have warned us and I'm sure some of you will say "what do you expect for tourists" but that kind of stuff doesn't happen in many countries. Anyway, we didn't let that upset us.
We checked the Colosseum first. It's impressive but not that impressive. I don't know what I was expecting. Yes, I know how it held all these amazing events and that they even used to fill the floor with water and re−enact water battles. But, for whatever reason it just wasn't that amazing to me. I even tried imagining it in my mind as I looked. Even, my favorite show is currently taking place in a colosseum but that wasn't enough to give it more appeal. Lucky going in March there weren't any lines.
We checked out the Sistine Chapel and again, I was mostly like "what−evar". Yea, I know that's bad attitude I guess but I've seen what feels like a gazillion churches in Europe, many have painted ceilings. This one also has painted ceilings. Yay 😐
Another day we went on the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. That was kind of cool climbing through the tunnels and stairs to get to the top of the dome. The church itself though, even if it is the biggest in the world, was not that interesting. Again, inside it looks just like any other large church in Europe or the USA for that matter.
I think the most disappointing thing though was the food. We just picked really poorly I guess but the food was just AWFUL!! This, especially after having read so many people say "Go anywhere in Italy and the food is amazing!"
I'm sure there are amazing restaurants but really, average Italian food is pretty dang bland. By that I mean look at all the fast food people are eating, Italian panini type sandwiches, etc. They're CRAP! Dry and boring. Bread + Tomatoes + Mozzarella for example or Bread + Tomatoes + Cured Pork. They're about as basic a sandwich as could be made. They were fuel rather than food and they were ubiquitous so this clearly isn't just a tourist thing.
Another problem we had is there are almost no convenience stores. If you need something first you have to walk a mile to some grocery store and you need to do it before 8pm or you're just S.O.L. I walked 4 miles around 10pm trying to find something to eat for a sick person. There were restaurants but few stores. I found a few fast food places back by the main station but slim pickens.
Of course I guess I'm used to the opposite extreme, Tokyo, where convenience stores number in the thousands, sometimes there can be 3 of them within 20 seconds of each other, and they are UBER convenient selling all kinds of good and healthy food, and junk food, and warm food, drinks, teas, liquor, toiletries, meds, batteries, even emergency clothing and electronics.
Florence was next and was also a huge disappointment. I really didn't know what to expect. I think the first time I had even heard of Florence was from the movie "While You Were Sleeping" where Sandra Bullock's character's life dream is to go to Florence. Similarly another TV show I'm watching brought up Florence as an amazing place. Several friends also said they liked it best of the places they visited.
Well, I don't know why. It has a river running through it but it was not particularly beautiful. In fact it was pretty dang ugly as rivers go. San Francisco is far more picturesque than Florence IMO. The main church there was pretty impressive looking, far more than the ones in Rome, but yet another church? I didn't bother to go in.
The food again was horrible. We went to one place that some how managed to get a 5 on Yelp and wasn't even a 2 in our opinion. Another I think served us a slice of raw artichoke. Extremely hard and super bland.
I really don't know why people like Florence. It had almost no charm for me.
Next up was Milan.
By this point we were pretty frustrated with the food and asked friends online for recommendations. One friend who had apparently lived there suggested a place and it was excellent. So yea, finally after 16 meals we'd had one good one.
Milan also seemed much more modern than Rome or Florence which personally I like. It had ruins and old buildings and European churches etc but it also had skyscrapers and seemed modernized.
We checked out one of the science museums which was HUGE! That was pretty cool.
Great shopping if you're into that. Of the 4 places we went it's the only one I'd consider going back to.
Last up was Venice. We were told the food would not be good there because it's one giant tourist trap so we braced ourselves. We did manage to find some good places though. One was recommended by our landlord. Another we stumbled on.
As for Venice itself it was both beautiful and boring at the same time. We got there and of course it's Venice, canals everywhere! There's arguably a main thoroughfare that goes through the islands. We walked half of it the first day from San Polo over the Rialto through San Marco to St. Mark's Square then over to Accademia and back down to San Polo. That was the first day right after we arrived and honest at that point I was done. I felt like "okay, seen it". Sure, there's a million alleys and canals but they all basically look the same.
The next day we walked from San Polo toward the station, over to Cannaregio, up to Ca'd'Ono and back to the Rialto bridge which is the other half of the main route. It didn't seem all that much different than the previous half.
Certainly it was amazing to see and I'm glad I went. Seeing how people live on the water. They have water taxis, water delivery boats, water based trash boats to pick up the trash, etc. That's all amazing and I'm glad I saw it. All I'm saying is that I could basically see that in a few hours, after which Venice felt very limited it what it has to offer.
There's little shopping unless you want to buy a souvenir in one of the thousand souvenir shops. There's pretty much only Italian food and while you might think "You're in Italy what do you expect"? I'd say to that, is that how you'd expect any other city in the world to be? NYC has all kinds of food not just New York food. Tokyo has all kinds of food not just Japanese food. Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco, London, they all have tons of food variety. Venice though is 99% Italian food where nearly every restaurant has the effectively the exact same menu as every other Italian restaurant we saw in Italy. There doesn't even seem to be that much variation there as well. In Japan, even if I stick to Japanese food they're huge variations from Tonkatsu, Ramen, Soba, Izakayas, Curry, Yakitori, Yakiniku, Nabe, Gyoza, etc. Everyone a completely different category of food with with restaurants specializing in each one. I'm sure all this is as a one time tourist to Italy but my impression being there 2 weeks as I'd go nuts at the limited menu options.
Sorry, I didn't mean for this to be a downer. I guess the short of it is though that I'm really glad I went. I'm really glad I got to see those places. But, I'd never choose to go back. Nothing I saw or experienced made me the least bit interested to explore more where as I'd love to go back to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and, Berlin.