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Driving, Europe, Italy, Travel

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

May 8, 2017
5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence
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For the past two summers, I have rented a car in Italy. Not only do I feel a little more local when I do this, but it also allows me to see the smaller towns that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Don’t worry driving in Italy isn’t as scary as people make it sound and Italian road trip is one of the best road trips!

Renting a Car

Renting a car in Italy is easy. I would recommend using Auto Europe, click here to check rates. I used them the last time I rented a car in Italy for the month, and they offered the best rates.

Rome is my starting point for renting a car because I cannot drive a manual transmission and there are more automatic cars available in Rome. Also, the rental desks are open till midnight. If you want to spend time in Rome, then I recommend renting the car after your time in Rome as parking in Rome is difficult and expensive.

Day 1 – Rome to Amelia

Once you arrive at the Rome Fiumicino Airport and rent your car, get on the road to your first stop or stay the night to rest up. If you come late in the day or are jet lagged, I recommend spending the night at the Hilton Rome Airport, check rates here. It is a short walk to the terminal and will allow you not to have to rent the car right after getting off the plane.

The first stop is the Parco di Monstri in Bomarzo, about one hour and a half from the Rome airport. This historic park is full of scary and wacky sculptures. Built by Pier Francesco Orsini in memory of his wife, Giulia Farnese in the 16th century. Both from well known Italian families.  The park is only accessible by car, so it is a must do while on a road trip in Italy. Allow 1-2 hours to explore the whole park.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

The next stop is Amelia, which is only about 45 minutes away from the park. Amelia is one of my favorite towns in Italy, and some say it is the oldest city in Umbria. The walls are ancient and in fantastic condition. There is an archaeology museum and many beautiful churches to explore. For dinner, I recommend La Locanda del Conte Nitto, which has beautiful food and views of the ancient streets of Amelia.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

Day 2 – Amelia to Assisi

Spend the morning finishing exploring Amelia and then head to the town of Assisi. If Assisi sounds familiar, it is because it is where St. Francis of Assisi was born. At the end of the town is the famous Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Basilica is stunning with views outside of the surrounding valley and colorful frescos inside. I recommend going early to beat the crowds.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

After that walk, through the town to the other side and head to the Rocca Maggiore. The Rocca Maggiore is the town’s ancient defense fort and overlooks the whole area. If you head to the top of the tower, you get an even better view.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

Stay the night in Assisi. You will want to, after all that walking. There is a public car park near the Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum hotel, which is the hotel I recommend in Assisi, check the rates here. Not only are the rooms located in a historic nunnery, but the hotel has a spa located in the Roman baths below. You can get a massage till eight at night, which is just the cure for you aching feet. Not only that you can eat with great views at the in-house restaurant of Eat Out, where the menu is seasonal and local.

Day 3 – Assisi to Gubbio

After enjoying your breakfast in Assisi, take the short drive to Perugia. Perugia is the capital of Umbria. It is known for its celebration of the arts. The highlight here is seeing the underground fortress, Rocca Paolina. The fort was started in 1540, and most of it was destroyed by the 19th century. Now you can explore the cellars and basements that are still standing.

Find more history in the short drive to Gubbio. Gubbio is a town built into the side of a small mountain and makes for stunning views of the city and the valley below. Due to it being integrated into the side of the mountain, you can take elevators from different levels of the town. There are tons of things to see in this city, but the architecture of dark gray stone buildings is intriguing and makes you fee like you have stepped back in time.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

Make sure you make it to the top level of the town to see the Cathedral of Gubbio. It has a stain glass window that is gorgeous. The views from up here are almost a must see. If you are really brave, you can take the funicular up to Basilica of Saint Ubaldo.

Day 4 – Gubbio to Siena

Spend a few hours in the morning exploring the things you didn’t get to see yesterday in Gubbio. Don’t forget to see the Palazzo dei Consoli built in the 14th century with running water. Then make a long drive to Siena. You are now in Tuscany! The entire historic center of Siena has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlight of this is the Siena Cathedral with its amazing gothic architecture.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to FlorenceThen make a long drive to Siena. You are now in Tuscany! The entire historic center of Siena has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlight of this is the Siena Cathedral with its amazing gothic architecture.

If you go to Siena in the summer, try to be there around the historic Palio di Siena. It is a medieval horse race that takes place in the Piazza del Campo. Who doesn’t want to see men ride horses through an ancient town in costume!

Day 5 – Siena to Florence

Given the short drive from Siena to Florence, you can spend the morning in Siena before heading to my favorite city in Italy, Florence. You will begin to see the rolling hills of Tuscany on this route. Driving through Umbria has you driving through the mountains, but now you will drive between them.

In Florence, you will return your rental car as driving in the historic center of Florence is limited to residences and can carry hefty fines if you do. Parking is also expensive. You will most likely have to return the car at the Florence airport. You can then take a taxi or the “Vola in Bus” shuttle, which takes you to the Florence train station.

There is so much to see in Florence, so you will need a few days to see it all. But on this first day, I recommend finding a museum that interests you and only do that on the first day. This way you won’t wear yourself out and can enjoy Florence to the fullest. I recommend the Hotel Plaza Lucchesi in Florence. I have stayed here on every trip I have had in Florence, check rates here.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to FlorenceBook tickets in advance and see the Uffizi Gallery on the second day. You will avoid the long lines to get in this way. The Uffizi Gallery has something for every art lover. Be sure to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus while you are there.

Have you gone on an Italian road trip, what was your favorite place? Share with us in the comments.

Packing, Prep, Rome, Travel

Travel Rules I Break and Why!

February 28, 2015

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Everyone one has a travel style. Many people avoid checking bags, only bring backpacks, look for the cheapest flights and take tons of photos. Others do the exact opposite and over pack, bring lots of suitcases and buy tons of stuff.  I probably fall somewhere in the middle of all this. Here I explain my reasoning for why I travel the way I do.

Packing light – No, I don’t pack everything I own and I do try to pack only what I think I will need, but I don’t think you need to pack light. You should enjoy your trip and if that means having your favorite clothes and shoes then pack them! (Or for me, my favorite travel pillow) Travel should be enjoyable and that means feeling good about yourself. You should wear what makes you feel good. I also like to have a backup outfit. You never know what can happen (staining your shirt or being invited to a party) and I don’t want to waste my travel time by shopping.

Checking bags – So this goes along with the first. I rarely don’t check a bag. This is for several reasons. I don’t like to carry a backpack as my only suitcase. I am very short and they get very uncomfortable for me. Usually my shoulders hurt by the time I have arrived at my destination and that is only with carry on items in it. Of course, this could be that I am out of shape!! I also have a hard time getting suitcases into the overhead bin because of my height. I also usually don’t change hotels once I arrive somewhere, so it isn’t a big deal to me to roll my suitcase to the hotel and back to the airport.  I have the four-wheeled ones that are great for this! I also usually fly Qatar Airways and I don’t have to pay to check a bag. That being said, I also don’t mind paying for one bag. It is a small price to pay for not having to lug my stuff around on my back!

Cheap travel – We all love a good travel deal, but I also want the schedule to be right for me. That usually means as few stops as possible (non-stop is best) and not traveling overnight. I know how my body operates and I need sleep. I am a terrible person to be around when I have had very little sleep and my joints ache. This means I usually end up paying $200-$300 more per flight as I want the schedule that everyone wants, but I also enjoy my trip more. It also means, I look for good deals on hotels or Airbnb instead. On my trip to Rome, I scored an Airbnb apartment for one week for $500!

Photos – I fall into the takes lots of photos category. Not thousands, but hundreds. Since I travel alone, this isn’t a big deal as I am not making someone stop to take photos. I also tend to take several shots of each scene to get it right. This is because I am trying to improve my skills. That being said, I still want to see the things I came to see without the camera. Take time to look at everything. I read a study that said taking lots of photos causes us not to remember what happened.

Talk to strangers –  I talk to strangers! I am from Texas and this comes naturally to me. It doesn’t matter if I am traveling alone or with someone else. Sometimes it doesn’t happen because I am in a place where English in’t spoken and my poor language skills don’t allow for it. But I will speak to strangers. I love learning about people and their stories! It’s one of the main reasons I love living abroad. Just do it, you won’t regret it. Start by saying hello or commenting on what you are both looking at.

What are some of your travel “rules”? Is there anything you can’t live without while traveling?

Europe, Prep, Travel

2015 Travel Plans

January 6, 2015

IMG_0001Usually, I don’t plan travel to far in advance. Maybe about a month to six weeks out is the norm.  But this year is a bit different. My parents are going on a European trip with their church choir. I had half committed to meeting them somewhere, but I wasn’t sure where. (I half committed because I don’t like tour groups.) Then they said there was going to be an extension trip to Paris! I also learned they were going to bring my 10-year-old niece as well.  This would be her first time on a plane and overseas. I was sold! So in June, I will be joining my parents, my niece and who knows how many choir members in Paris. This must be the farthest out I have ever planned a trip on my own. However, there isn’t much for me to do as it is done with a tour company. I will be arriving a day before them because of the flight schedules and I also want to find places for us to eat.

I also found out this Fall that there is an art exhibition in Venice I want to attend. It is the Biennale. This year it runs from May 9 – November 22. So I think Venice will be my July Eid holiday.  I will also try to go visit some friends that now live in Italy near Rome. I am trying to decide if I will take the train from Venice to their town or drive.

I haven’t made any decisions on dates or even destinations for the rest of the year, but I do know I want to try to hit more of the Gulf countries this year. Here is my list to choose from:

  • Oman
  • Dubai
  • Kuwait
  • Cambodia
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Sri Lanka
  • Greece

Obviously, I can’t go to all of them, but I have plenty of choices.  I will also be traveling for work. Most likely that will Dublin and maybe Iceland! Stay tuned…

Europe, Museums, Rome, Travel

Christmas in Roma! – Rome Part 2

April 21, 2014

Christmas time in Italy is all about family (or so I am told!), so I was counting on less crowded streets and museums.  Not so!  The streets were less crowded but the Vatican Museum was full.  I had bought my ticket in advance, which I highly recommend unless you love waiting in long lines.  My ticket included a guided tour, which was the best idea I had.  I would have been lost and not really sure of what I was looking at.  Of course, it meant I didn’t see everything, but that would take days.  The guide was very knowledgeable about both art and the history of the Vatican.  There was so much to look at!  The guide kept pointing out things on the ceilings and the walls.  There were amazing tapestries and sculpture.  One thing that was rarely mentioned was the floors almost all the floors were tiled with elaborate patterns of small tiles.  Most of these were in excellent condition considering how many people have walked on them over the hundreds of years and even more so now that thousands of tourists come everyday.  Here a just a few pictures from the Vatican museums.  (No pictures of the Sistine Chapel as its not allowed.)

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Christmas Day!  The only thing I wanted to do was to hear the Pope give the blessing on Christmas Day.  Not knowing how many people would have the same idea, I got there about two and half hours before the blessing was scheduled.  I was there in plenty of time and it wasn’t busy in St. Peter’s Square when I arrived.  I was able to take pictures in front of the Christmas tree and the huge Nativity scene.  I made my way to the front of the square (which is actually a circle) to the fenced area.  I now had about two hours of standing to do, or so I thought.  In front of the fenced area there were rows of chairs.  I had seen events before and Cardinals or dignitaries would sit in these seats.  About 1o minutes after I got up there, they opened that area up to the public!  Not only was I closer to the action, I got to sit.  It was like a party up there.  People were singing and chanting.  The best was all the flags people had brought from their home countries.  Because of all this, I totally forgot I was spending Christmas alone in a foreign country.  After awhile, music started to play and the Swiss Guard marched in playing music and then some Italian military marched in from the other side.  There was some kind of ceremony between the two. The Pope came out right at 12 and greeted everyone in Italian with Buon Natale.  I didn’t understand much of what was being said, but it didn’t matter.  It was an experience I will never forget.

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