Italy is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. I have traveled to many places and countries, and I have to say, my love affair with Italy grows and grows. The people, the gelato, the churches, the gelato, the history, the gelato, the buildings, the gelato – I love it all!! In 2018, I went with two of my daughters, and we had an unforgettable time! Today, I am sharing how you can do an Italy girl’s trip too!
My first time in Italy was on a 3-week trip to Europe with two of my daughters and my parents. Venice was a two-day stop in stifling July heat, and I loved it anyway! It was so hot that we would go out, walk the city for a while, come back and cool off in our air-conditioned, overpriced hotel (before I started travel hacking), and go back out again. However, I loved every minute of it!
Riding in a boat with our private gondola driver was surreal. I was just disappointed he didn’t break out in song and serenade us! I loved St. Charles Square and the masses of pigeons that would fly around. Listening to battling music groups at night while drinking very expensive diet coke is always such fun. However, doing it in St. Charles Square is over the top. Walking over the Rialto Bridge was one of those “pinch me moments” as I looked over the Grand Canal.
Leaving Venice for other ports of call in Europe, I knew I’d be back to Italy again and again. And I have. Again and again. I’ve been to Florence three times, back to Venice, to Rome twice, the Amalfi Coast, and most recently, to Cinque Terre. Over and over again, Italy beckons to me.
On this most recent trip, I traveled with two of my daughters to Rome, Florence, and Cinque Terre (the place I have been dying to get to for years) for an Italy girl’s trip! I made two of my dreams come true: A trip with my daughters combined with a trip to Cinque Terre. Even better – we planned our trip to Italy with points to decrease the cost!
Before I started travel hacking, my trips to Italy involved economy-price tickets. Those days are long gone! For this Italy girl’s trip, we all had United points. We used 70K United MileagePlus miles each way to fly business class, and it was fabulous! Nothing like a good meal, good sleep, and arriving rested in Rome!! (It is possible to find round-trip tickets for 60,000 miles in economy class). My favorite use of points when traveling to Italy is those lay-flat seats every time!
We received our points from the Chase United Explorer. We also used points from the Chase United Business Explorer. There is also the United Quest that will also give you more United Miles. It is important to sign up for cards when they are at a high bonus level. You can count on us to keep you updated on when it is a good time to sign up for each card.
Additionally, you can use Ultimate Rewards that you may have from the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Cash and transfer them to United Airlines from the Chase Ultimate Rewards site. Whether you travel business or economy class, using points for your flights to Italy is your biggest savings.
Our first stop on our Italy girl’s trip was Rome, one of the oldest cities in the world. We stayed at the Marriott Grand Hotel Flora, a stunning hotel in the perfect location for walking around. One of my daughters had Marriot points and treated us to two magnificent nights there. It cost us 50,000 Marriott points per night at the time, but it costs more in points to stay now. Thanks, Kasey, for using your points on our visit to Rome!
You can get those points by signing up for one of the Marriott Credit Cards. Go here for a link to the current offers and to see why we are in love with these cards.
We woke up early our first morning, had a quick breakfast, and headed out to see the city! On our first day there, we did Rick Steve’s Walking Tour to get the lay of the land. We climbed the Spanish Steps, visited the Pantheon, and threw a few coins into the Trevi Fountain. I just love wandering the streets of any town we visit. Oh, and of course, we ate some gelato!!
Our second day was packed because we had booked two tours. We got up early and went on a tour of Vatican City. We didn’t know that St. Peter’s Cathedral is often closed on Wednesdays for papal audiences. Guess what day we were there? We may not have been able to go into St. Peter’s, but the Sistine Chapel left us in awe. The Vatican museums were full of beautiful paintings, and the grounds of the Vatican are pristine. GetYourGuide offers the best tours in Italy, and I love tours because I learn so much more than going on my own!
After a quick lunch of pizza and gelato (surprise!), we headed to meet our tour group at the Colosseum and Roman Forum. I could just imagine the lions in their cages and the gladiators waiting to fight them. I tried to envision the Romans sitting in the stands, ready to vote if the gladiator should live or die that day – it was quite a thrill! Don’t you wish you could get a glimpse into the past and see what these places were like in their prime?! I sure do!
After our visit, we grabbed our luggage at the hotel, took a taxi, and headed to the train station. Luckily, it wasn’t my first time at a train station in Italy, and I knew what to expect. We had bought our tickets ahead of time at Rail Italia, so we just had to wait at the big lighted sign that posts which platform was going to Florence or Firenza, as it’s called over there, and head to it. They post the platform your train is arriving at about 15 minutes before it leaves, so you have to be alert and as soon as it is posted, head to the platform or area that you board on.
It is always a bit nerve-wracking to hurry over, find the car you are traveling in and get seated in the right spot because you only have a short while once your platform is posted. It has always worked out, but it’s a bit of a thrill each time. Our train took 1 1/2 hours, and we were soon in Florence.
It is often difficult and expensive to find lodging in Europe for groups of people, so using points for accommodations is more difficult there. I often decide to do an Airbnb and just split the expenses. That is what we did for this portion of our Italy girl’s trip, and we stayed in the cutest flat right in the heart of Florence.
We loved our flat and only spent about $100 each to stay in it for the three nights we were there. Here’s a link to our cute flat if you want to check it out – it was a fantastic location!
We got up early the first morning in Florence and headed to the train station to meet for a group tour. Our tour was heading to the Italian cities of Siena and San Gimignano.
Siena is home to the Paoli, where rivaling neighborhoods race each year for the glory of winning in a horse race around the center of the city. The Siena Duomo (or cathedral) here is my personal favorite church. There is just something about the zebra-like stripes on it that I love!
San Gimignano was our second stop. It is a tiny town on a hill that is so picturesque. Situated above the grape vineyards, it is the perfect escape from the busier cities of Florence and Sienna. It is so much fun to go in and out of all the cute stores and sample a little world-famous gelato.
We took pictures on the Ponte Vecchio, the main bridge in Florence and one of my favorite sites in the world. It just screams, “I’m in Florence” to me. Because I had been there twice before and was on a time crunch, we skipped the Statue of Michaelangelo and the Uffizi Museum on this trip and opted for a hands-on experience in the afternoon.
Later that day, we went to a pizza and gelato-making class in a Tuscan Farmhouse. It was seriously the most fun! Hands-on experiences in a city are delightful. We made quick friends with the other two couples in our class and made the best homemade pizza and gelato – we even got pizza-making certificates!
They picked us up on a bus to take us back to Florence, and we were joined by five couples from New Jersey who had been to dinner in a restaurant upstairs of our class. One of the guys in the group had been in a 50’s band, and they serenaded us with 50’s classics, complete with Doo-Wops – we were laughing and crying hysterically. What a fun night!
Cooking classes, when visiting countries, are one of the most fun activities to do. I highly recommend them, and our pizza was amazing!
As we walked back to our Airbnb, exhausted and energized at the same time, we came upon a small group playing music and listened for a while. Unexpected moments like this are one of the reasons I’ve been to Florence three times and why it is one of my favorite cities in the world.
The next stop on our Italy girl’s trip was Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is an area of five different cities that are well-known and very beloved by tourists. It is THE place in Italy I have most wanted to go to for years. I wondered if the hype of it would live up to the hype or if it would be filled with too many tourists. Verdict: I loved it! It is a very picturesque area with multicolored houses, many boats, and beautiful beaches.
We stayed in the town of Monterosso at a hotel we found on Trip Advisor called the Hotel Villa Steno. There are no branded hotels in this area, so there is no chance of using points for this part of our Italy girl’s trip. The people who own the hotel we stayed at serve an excellent breakfast every morning and were the kindest, most hospitable people.
As rumored, Monterosso is filled with tourists all day long. Amazingly, when they leave at about 3:00 pm, it becomes this quiet little town that you never want to leave. I really want to return and spend a full week there. I loved the vibe there and the beaches and colors.
For three days we parked ourselves on beach chairs that cost $15.00 a day and read, enjoyed the sun, and swam in the water. At lunchtime, we headed up to find some delicious focaccia, a coke (diet for me), and of course, gelato!! Dinners were usually pasta, seafood, or pizza in cute restaurants around town.
One day we took the ferry out of Monterosso and went to each of the other towns to check them out. How gorgeous is each town???
Sadly, we had to leave this idyllic area after three days and head to Pisa (where we were flying home) via the train. Unfortunately, we didn’t leave ourselves enough time to go see the Leaning Tower this time but, hey, it’s a reason to go back! We reluctantly got on our plane and lie-flat seats and began dreaming about our next Italy girl’s trip! Using points to Italy makes it a real possibility!
Seriously, you have to go to Italy! Great country great people, and the best gelato in the world! Start planning, and let us know how we can help you plan this trip to Italy! Plan to use points to Italy for your flights. If you travel with only one person, you can find a hotel in Italy (especially in bigger cities ) with points too! This fun hobby of travel hacking can make a dream for any country come true! Be sure and come back to this post when you want to do an Italy girl’s trip or any other trip to Italy!
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