I booked Italy as a surprise for my boyfriends birthday (I know, I know, bird of the year award but hey, it means he has to step his game up when my birthday rolls around so I’m not soft). God knows how I managed to keep it a secret but I’d organised to see his family and friends before his birthday and get him the time off work and on the morning of his birthday I handed him a card with all the usual Happy Birthday stuff and it read ‘p.s. I’ve booked us a boss Italian restaurant for dinner, the thing is, it’s in Pisa so we’re flying out at 6pm – pack your bags’ As he read it I saw him shake his hed in disbelief and read it again – to say he was made up was an understatement so all the months of planning and keeping quiet was totally worth it. Have you ever tried stealthily packing suitcases? It’s sound, men don’t notice a thing!
I chose Pisa as our base as there were hotels with swimming pools and it was closer to the beach so we could have a sunbathing holiday as well as seeing the sights. There’s not much to do in Pisa apart from see the tower (which is of course breathtaking) but Florence (or Firenze as the natives call it) is only just over an hour away in the car or on the train and there’s loads to do there. I booked us an overnight stay in Florence as well and we took the train for €8 each – there were no ticket inspectors at either train stations or on the train so do with that information what you will 😉 I condone nothing.
Italy is quite expensive in general. Expect to pay €5-8 euros for a beer and €12-20 euros per course on a meal. Ice creams etc range from €3 to a whopping €7 so be prepared to drop some serious cash. My tip is to find a local supermarket such as Unicoop to stock up on alcohol, you can get beers for about €1 each and a decent bottle of prosecco for €2.50 – excess luggage charges? Worth it!
Rather than just stay in Pisa and Florence we also hired a car for a couple of days and did a bit of a whistlestop tour of Tuscany. Most people in Italy drive (albeit like a maniac) a Fiat and ‘when in Rome’ (lol bantz) we hired a Fiat Panda for about £15 a day excluding insurance and petrol. All Italian motorways charge a toll which can range anywhere between €1 and €11 so be prepared for that – all in all totally worth it to see some unforgettable sights and step back in time to the Italian Renaissance and in some cases Ancient Rome.
For more tips and beautiful pictures of Italy check out my other blogs on my whistlestop tour of Europe’s shoe.