What To Do And See In Amsterdam and Italy

Our month long trip to Europe is coming up in FOUR weeks! Needless to say, I am getting very excited. It's hard to not talk about it 24/7. As the trip creeps closer and closer, a fun thing to do to take that excited energy out on something is to scour the internet and figure out the best places to eat, drink and the best sights to see at each location on our itinerary. Putting together a "must see and do" list can really make the difference on your vacations. That extra effort and research can really pay off and helps you to discover the hidden gems of each destination you are going to. Chances are you are like me and when we hear "Rome" for example, we think of things like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, etc (which are all must sees OF COURSE), but sometimes the most amazing experiences come from visiting the less known touristy sights. I think a combination of both is perfect. After all, the main touristy attractions are popular for a reason. On these lists of to-do's I will do my best to create a list that would bring a blended experience of what the locals do and what a tourist must see. 

If you don't already know about the month long Europe trip we are going on in August, you can read more about it HERE. We are going to Amsterdam, Rome, Tropea, Sicily, Venice, Cinque Terre and Florence. To figure out everything we want to do at each stop we have been doing a few different things to investigate the must do's. My favorite way to find out where we should go, what we should eat, drink, do and see is from asking a friend or family member who has been to the destination before (preferably many times). Nick's grandparents have traveled to Europe so many times and are amazing at filling you in on what to do. In fact, they love sharing their stories and experiences with us. Ask detailed questions about each place or activity people refer you to. Why did they enjoy it? How long will that take? Where exactly is that? How much does that cost? What time of year did you do that? etc. This will give you a good idea on if it will be a fit for what you enjoy. Another great source is Pinterest. It is such a great search engine for travel blog posts. What I love about reading travel blog posts is that there is usually no bias, and these bloggers (like myself) are simply sharing their experiences, tips and tricks. I search Pinterest by each city we will be going to and I have been "pinning" away! My sister in law (who will be on the trip with us) and I started an Amsterdam board that we both pin to. It's so much fun and super helpful in discovering the secrets of each city. There's not much you can't find on Pinterest, it's great. Another thing we do to discover more about European destinations before we visit is watch Rick Steves videos. He knows how to travel Europe like a pro! That's his career, and he gives amazing information. Last time we went to Italy, we did a ton of things he recommended and it was extremely helpful. The final resource I use is TripAdvisor. I love searching the "Best of..." section on TripAdvisor. You can search for different regions. This will help you find the best restaurants, attractions, museums, and landmarks in each region. You can also just type in "restaurants" in "Florence" for example. It will pop up the best rated places in a list starting with best reviewed. When it says "certificate of excellence" it's usually a great sign. With using each of those sources, I bring to you the Must Do & See list for Amsterdam and Italy!

 

AMSTERDAM

  • Ann Frank house (buy tickets ahead so you do not wait in line).

  • Eat at Blue 360 restaurant. This has panoramic views of the city. It is located in a glass tower in the center of the city. 

  • Van Gogh museum. Pre-order tickets. It is 17 euros for adults and free for kids under 17.

  • Grab food at Stach Food Market

  • Flower Market in Amsterdam. This is the ONLY floating flower market in the entire world! My husband's Grandma said this was her favorite part of Amsterdam. I am so excited for this. 

  • Diamond Center. There are free guided tours of diamond factories around the city. Nick's Grandparents also loved this.

  • Rent a bike. Bikes are a very popular form of transportation around Amsterdam. 

  • According to this blogger, you must snack on a Stroopwafel (part cookie, part waffle with caramel on the inside) and also snack on fries (which come with many different sauce options). These two foods are very popular in Amsterdam. Yumm!

  • The Red Light District. Not saying I agree with legal prostitution (because I don't). However, that is part of the Dutch culture and I want to see it for myself. I think it will be quite interesting.

  • Rembrant house and museum. 

  • Rijksmuseum. Another art museum. 


ROME

  • Tour the Vatican City. Make sure to see St. Peter's Basilica (in St. Peter's Square) and the Sistine Chapel. View my blog post on the Vatican City. 

  • Tour the Colosseum. Make sure to buy tickets ahead of time. 

  • Tour the Roman Forum. Again, buy tickets ahead of time. 

  • Visit the Pantheon. This is a free sight. 

  • Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain. 

  • Eat gelato on the Spanish Steps.

  • If there on a Sunday, catch a mass from the Pope. You need a ticket, which you can get from the Swiss Guards in St. Peter's Square near the "Bronze Door". Tickets are free. They suggest getting there 1-3 hours early to get a good seat and good view of the Pope. You can view the schedule HERE.

  • Buy produce at the market in Campo de Fiori. The farmers market is in the mornings, you can buy fresh fruit, vegetables, and other foods. Campo de Fiori was one of my favorite piazzas in Rome. 

  • Wander around Trastevere (less touristy) and make sure to eat here! We had some of the best food in Trastevere and it is much cheaper. To read on where to eat in Rome, read this blog post I did on that. 

  • Eat gelato as you enjoy the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. The atmosphere in Piazza Navona is amazing.

  • Walk through the Borghese Gallery. 

  • See Palatine Hill. This is basically part of touring the Roman Forum, it is just south of it.

  • Castel Sant'Angelo. I had never heard of this prior to visiting Rome, but it was quite interesting to tour. 

  • Walk the city at night. The city comes alive at night, especially the Piazzas. There is always music playing and it feels like a scene from a movie. 

  • Giardino Degli Aranci (Garden of Oranges). This garden offers an amazing view of St. Peter's Basilica. 

  • Take a day trip to wine country.


Tropea

  • Refer back to my post on Tropea


Sicily

  • Visit the Greco Theatre. Of course I love this place, our last name is Greco! This ancient theatre is truly amazing, the seats are made of stone, the Mediterranean sea is the backdrop, and big name artists still preform here today. 

  • Wander around Taormina.

  • Rent a paddle boat at the beach. The water is crystal clear, it's fun to look down into. 

  • Visit Mount Etna (but be careful, it is an active volcano). 

  • Slides at Sicily's Citta del Mare Hotel Village. I saw these slides on Pinterest and was obsessed. They are water slides that slide right into the Tyrrhenian Sea! Looks incredible. After lots of research, it seems like you must be a guest at the hotel in order to enjoy the slides, and warning, the only positive hotel feedback is about the slides. I still want to experience these slides though.


florence

  • Statue of David

  • Duomo di Firenze (Florence Cathedral) - go to top of bell tower and the dome (the cupola) for amazing views of Florence. 

  • The Ponte Vecchio Bridge- walk and shop along it. 

  • Eat aperitivo instead of dinner one night. I read a blog post on this and the girl said it is usually from 7-9pm and you pay for the drink which is usually 7-10 euros and you then get access to enjoy the buffet of food with it. This allows you to try several different foods.

  • Eat at Sandwichic in Florence. It is the #1 best rated restaurant for Florence on TripAdvisor. 

  • Eat at Cuco Cucina Contemporanea. The pictures of the food on TripAdvisor look amazing (my mouth was watering) and it's rated #11 in Florence, with people saying it was the best meal they have had in Italy. Can't wait to try it!

  • Tuscan wine tour. 

  • Walk through Boboli Gardens. I am SO grateful I read this article and that she mentioned these gardens. It looks absolutely breathtaking and I don't want to miss seeing this.

  • Visit the Uffizi Gallery. I am not a huge art fan, but I think I might still make this a stop on my trip. After all, everyone has heard of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci and seeing their art in person is probably an amazing experience whether you like art or not. 

  • Get a panoramic view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo


Cinque Terre

  • Stay in town. You won't find many or any hotels in Cinque Terre, but you can book an Airbnb (this is what we did). Rick Steves is the reason tourists even know about the Italian gem that is Cinque Terre, and he says that you need to experience it by staying there. He says the tourists will typically come for the day, then leave. Once they leave you have the towns to "yourself". At night it is less crowded and it is mainly locals walking around town. 

  • Stay in Vernazza. Rick Steves claims this is the best town of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre. 

  • Eat pesto! Cinque Terre is known for their fresh pesto. 

  • Cinque Terre hike. You can hike along the coast from town to town. Start early for best weather and for less crowds on the trail. This might be a while day thing if you stop in each town to explore. I cannot wait to do this. I absolutely will be writing an entire blog post on it once I come home from our trip!


venice

  • Eat in St. Marks Square.

  • Tour St. Marks Basillica.

  • Doges Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. This is near St. Marks Basillica. 

  • Book your hotel or Airbnb IN Venice, on the island. Rick Steves says Venice (like many Italian cities) comes alive at night and you want to be there when most of the tourists leave (which is at night).

  • Take a day trip (if you have time) to the Prosecco region. Prosecco is the Champagne of Italy. You can tour the vineyards. 

  • Take a gondola ride, or a boat ride in the canals. Or do both. Gondola rides are a bit pricey, but for me it's such a top of the bucket list item that I don't care. If it hasn't been on your heart to ride in a gondola, go for the boat ride.

  • Head to Cocaeta for a crepe, sweet or savory. Rated #4 for food in Venice on TripAdvisor. The reviews are great and the photos look delicious.

  • Eat cichetti, this is popular in Venice. Cichetti are small snacks or side dishes. TripAdvisor claims that Osteria Al Squero has amazing cichetti. It's rated #9 and has amazing reviews.


I hope this post helps you in your travels!! Thanks for reading! 

 

RELATED:

How To Plan A Month Long Trip To Italy: Part One

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know the exciting news. My hubby and I are going to Europe for the entire month of August this year!!! We are so beyond excited about this trip, sometimes losing sleep over it! We will be gone from the 2nd through the 30th. If you've been a reader of my blog for a while, then you already know we have been to Italy before. We have family in southern Italy, Nick's grandma's sister... So, his dad's aunt and that entire side of the family lives in Italy, while his dad's parents moved here to the United States. Haha family trees can be a tad confusing, but none the less, he has family in Italy. We have been to Rome, Sicily and southern Italy ( Calabria). We did that trip in 2014 for our honeymoon. This trip we will be going to Amsterdam, Florence, Tuscany, Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Sicily, and Tropea. It will be our very first time in the Netherlands and northern Italy. 

 

WHY AUGUST?

We picked August for a specific reason, it is an Italian holiday called Ferragosto. It is a Catholic holiday that is surrounding the assumption of the Virgin Mary. The actual holiday is celebrated on August 15th. Many Italians take this day off, and possibly the following days or weeks. We love going at this time because our family is off work and we get to see them more. Also, on the 15th to celebrate Ferragosto they cook an amazing meal ( you could call it a feast), and for us we would never want to miss a home cooked Italian "feast". Now I understand not everyone has family in Italy and most people traveling to Italy will not know any locals, which in that case I could see a few cons to traveling in August. You will find some shops and restaurants to be closed, since the local Italians who own them are on holiday. Also, the beaches can be more crowded around Ferragosto, that is where most Italian families will spend their off time for some R&R. If you are traveling in a major city or major "touristy" area, you probably won't have a problem with this, as most of those people will keep shops open for business. 

 

 

 

 

MAPPING OUT THE TRIP

map of italy trip florence tuscany tropea cinque terre venice

We are firm believers that travelers will have a better experience if they spend more time at each location, instead of adding more locations to the itinerary and having less days at each location. We will be in Italy for about a month, which to some people would mean seeing EVERY hot spot in Italy. Instead of adding Milan, the Amalfi Coast, a neat restaurant we saw on Pinterest that is about 2 hours from anywhere we are going, etc., we decided to pick our top must see locations and spend quality time there. We strongly feel that two nights is the MINIMUM to really enjoy each location. We don't want our trip to feel too rushed and hectic, leaving us exhausted and unable to truly enjoy each stop. Rick Steves (our travel guru) says always plan your trip with the assumption that you will be back. I think that's a great piece of advice. Last time Nick and I went to Italy we saw Rome, Tropea and Sicily. We got to see all the big sights in each location but then we also got to spend some time just relaxing and walking around with no schedule or plan. Just the intention to relax and discover the city as locals do.

This time we flew into Amsterdam instead of Rome. There were multiple benefits to booking it this way. One being it was actually cheaper to do so. And two, it gives us the chance to see a country we have never been to. We will stay there for three nights. Four days there will give us the chance to see everything that we "must" like the red light district (not tooo much of it), Ann Frank's house, etc. But it will also give us time to make random discoveries as we waltz around town. 

 

I am going to blog throughout this trip, I will keep you all in the loop with every new travel discovery we make. Stay tuned for packing posts (and a video), individual city guides and more! Comment below if there is a specific type of post you would like to see reguarding our travels. Thanks for stopping by my little slice of the internet! Ciao! 

according to d blog
 

 

RELATED: