Why Italy ?
What is the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the word Italy ? This country is not all romance and art as generally portrayed. Travel to Italy is a wholesome and enriching experience. Apart from the boastful history of the Roman empire and the marvels of Renaissance period by some of the greatest artists to have lived like Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raffaello (not to be confused with the ninja turtles), Italy is also a cultural, culinary and scenic retreat.
Despite being a small country, each city in Italy has a totally different vibe to offer. Be it the overdose of Renaissance in Florence, the overwhelming history and architecture in Rome, the romantic vistas in Venice, the high fashion in Milan or the postcard perfect landscapes of Amalfi; Italy has a piece of delight for every kind of traveler.
The planning for the trip commenced early in January 2019. By the second week we had found a cheap round trip flight (operated by Jet Airways) and booked it through yatra.com (read ahead for the fiasco we faced). The next step was planning the internal travel. Except for Pisa, I don't think there is any other city that can be covered in just one day. Constrained by budget and time, we had to make hard choices regarding the tourist attractions to visit. We organized the trip such that the palette covered a little bit of everything, including art, architecture, history, culture, nature and adventure. Travel within the country was done using trains and buses (tickets were booked through Omio.com). We had considered renting a self drive car for more flexibility, but the cost was not affordable for three people. You can definitely consider a self drive vehicle if going in a larger group and are comfortable with left hand drive. There are many self drive companies operating in Europe, you can use Kayak.com to browse among their options.
Being budget travelers, all our lodging was booked in hostels. Hostels are on an average available at €15 - €20 per night, which is at least four times cheaper than any hotel. Our days were going to be jam packed and we only needed a bed to crash for the night. Almost all the hostels we stayed at were very comfortable, some even surpassed our expectations. The bookings were made through booking.com and hostelworld.com. Renting a homestay through airbnb is also a good option if your trip is a bit more relaxed and spaced out.
As per our initial plan, we were going to land in Milan on the afternoon of 12th April (local time). The evening was to be spent going around the city and visiting the San Siro football stadium (home of AC Milan and Inter Milan). The morning session of the next day (13th April) was allotted for a hike along the Cinque Terre, a beautiful coastal hike through five old fishing villages situated in the northwestern coastal regions in Liguria. The post-lunch slot of the day was allotted for Pisa and a train from La Spezia (station near Cinque Terre) to Pisa was already booked. However, as you will read towards the end of the blog, our Jet Airways flights got cancelled and we ended up landing in Rome instead of Milan. This led us to cancel the Cinque Terre plan. While at Delhi airport, we booked a bus from Rome to Pisa and planned to catch our itinerary from there. Everything after that went smoothly and just as we had charted. The last two days in Milan were additional (again owing to the cancellation of our flight about which you can read in the last section of the blog). We utilized this extra time to explore Lake Como in the northern part of Italy.
Breakdown of Expenses
This is a consolidated overview of the expenses. Detailed expenditure incurred per day is provided in the blogs for respective cities. All the costs given below are per person.
1. Visa: ₹8000 (applied through Thomas Cook, you can get it at around ₹5500 if you apply directly to VFS Global)
2. Travel insurance: ₹1000 (arranged through Yatra.com)
3. International travel: ₹55000 (round-trip) (our cheaper Jet Airways flight got cancelled on the day of departure, the original Jet Airways ticket was only ₹39000)
4. Internal travel: ₹9000 (all train and bus tickets were pre-booked through Omio.com)
5. Forex: ₹60000 (roughly €800, we used a Forex card from SBI, more details can be found here)
6. International SIM card: ₹1000 (bought at Delhi airport, it proved to be extremely useful during the travel)
Total Expense: ₹135000
We withdrew cash as per requirement. Most places accepted card payment. All the entry tickets, hostel tariffs and food purchase was managed with the Forex. By the end of the trip, we still had ₹11000 worth of unused Euro (per person) in the card.
Structure of the Trip
In this section I detail the structure of the trip, the cities we visited and the places of attraction we visited in those cities. Detailed blogs for each city are hyperlinked.