My husband and I took a trip to Italy last month for our second honeymoon. Our first honeymoon was immediately after our wedding, we took a short vacation to Cove Poconos, which turned out to be very relaxing, fun and of course, romantic. Sorry, I didn’t blog about that here, I mostly shared the experience on my personal Facebook page. Anyway, for our second honeymoon, I wanted it to be outside the country and I wanted it to be very memorable. Being married in a Catholic Church I entertained the idea of the Pope marrying us 🙂 But then even better, I found out during our marriage preparation class that the Pope blesses newlywed couples during his Papal Audience on Wednesdays. So, this knowledge heavily influenced the location of our second honeymoon. We initially planned to go to the Caribbeans but we downgraded that idea and chose Italy so we can be with the Pope in the Vatican. I know saying that sounds like a long short but I made it happen.
First things first, before we left for Italy I had to plan, which involved extensive research on hotels, bed and breakfasts, tours, restaurants, the cities and their cultures. Thanks to sites like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Google Flight, Google Map, Seat61, which were like my personal travel planners, this trip was possible and successful due to them. To ensure we had a great time in Italy, I documented everything we would do or hope to do. I jotted down ideas and copied and pasted helpful links on my iPhone Note app then later transferred some crucial information to Google sheets, which helped put everything in perspective.
Below are some things I did during planning that made our trip successful and affordable
As previously mentioned, I did an extensive research on each city based on hotels, bed and breakfasts, top sights/tours, restaurants etc. I made notes of things I found very interesting, things I wanted us to do, where I wanted us to stay and which trains we should take. My iPhone Note app was extremely useful at this stage of planning. Below is a screenshot of some of my planning on the iPhone.
After noting cities, train rides and schedules, I transferred some information to Google sheets so I can have a dashboard of everything and also have a better perspective of what we would be doing on this trip. Below is a screenshot of Google sheets dashboard of my trip planning.
How to meet and receive marriage blessing from the Pope
Since the main reason for our trip was to see the Pope, I planned that first. What did I do, you ask? I reached out to the Vatican. I did a Google search and found out the direct contact information of the Vatican’s department that handles all things about the Newlyweds Papal Audience. I sent them an email sharing our interest to meet and receive marriage blessing from the Pope. They responded and told us what to do, which involved giving our full names, marriage information and some relevant travel information. They approved our request and gave us instructions on when and where to pick up our tickets.
We arrived Rome on Tuesday night extremely jet lagged and we didn’t have the energy to do anything except grab some quick bites at a nearby restaurant, came back to our hotel, took a shower and just slept. The Papal Audience was to start at 10 am on Wednesday but we were advised to be there by 7 am otherwise there would be no seats or even any space to stand. We met other newlyweds from all over the world who were just as excited as us. They too, just like us, had on their wedding attires or something similar according to the dress code. Meeting the Pope was definitely the best and most memorable experience of our trip to Italy. This is a bucket list checked off.
Where to stay in Rome, Italy
After I secured our tickets and it was a done deal that we would meet the Pope, I searched for hotels near the Vatican. It was important we stayed near the Vatican because we planned to be at St. Peter’s Square for the Papal Audience very early in the morning. Luckily, I found the Vatican View hotel, which was 6 mins walk to the Vatican. I heavily utilized Google map to get the distance and directions to places. The Vatican View hotel was very neat, the ambiance was cozy, chic and romantic. It was not the most spacious hotel we’ve ever stayed in but it was perfect for our 3 nights stay. The front desk staff was extremely helpful, they gave us the map of Rome and highlighted the best sights and spots we should checkout. They even upgraded our room upon hearing it was our honeymoon trip. I highly recommend this hotel, and my husband and I can’t wait to stay here again.
Things to do in Rome, Italy
Being on a budget, I searched for things that were free and low cost. I found us a free Rome tour called New Rome Free Tour. Our tour guide was Matteo, he was very knowledgeable about Rome’s history and gave us a quick lecture on every sight we visited. Although, it was a free tour, we had to tip generously. Some of the sights we visited were the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Pantheon etc. We also did a self guided tour to the Colosseum, we did this on our last day in Rome and sadly, didn’t have enough time to really explore this historical wonder. Other things we did included walking around the narrow and cobblestone streets, eating pizza and pasta at authentic Italian restaurants (one restaurant, LaRomanella had the best pasta with clams – that’s my favorite pasta to eat and I had my very best at this restaurant).
We left Rome for Florence on Friday. Instead of hotel, we chose to stay in a bed and breakfast. I wanted us to stay in the midst of everything without breaking the bank.
Where to stay in Florence, Italy
We stayed at Antica Dimore Firenze, this is one of the most romantic bed and breakfasts in Florence, Italy according to most hotel review websites. It was a walking distance to top sights, although, some people may consider driving considering we walked 20 mins to some of the sights. But I’ll advise walking in Florence despite the distance in order to take in this beautiful and historical city. Our hostess served us delicious breakfast every morning, and arranged snacks, beverages and alcoholic drinks in the living room for guests to enjoy anytime of the day.
Things to do in Florence, Italy
We arrived Florence on Friday evening, successfully checked into our bed and breakfast and immediately embarked on a self guided tour of the city. We just couldn’t help ourselves. Florence was more beautiful than we imagined and knowing we were close to almost every sight made us so anxious to go out there and explore it. Our first stop was the Duomo. OMG! Seeing such a marvelous work of art just took my breath away, it was an orgasmic experience. Our next stop was the Ponte Vecchio, this is the oldest and most famous bridge in Florence. It was the only bridge that the Germans didn’t destroy during WWII. We took the Florence Free Tour on our second day in Florence and just like in Rome, we also had to tip generously at the end of the free tour. Some of the sights we visited included but not limited to the Palazzo Vecchio, Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, and Uffizi Gallery – we didn’t go inside though, you need to buy a ticket to see inside hence, why we came back the next day. If you love art and history then you need to make seeing the Uffizi Gallery a top priority whenever you visit Florence. Other things we did were eating and walking around like the locals, eating street foods, shopping at the street market, eating gelato, and walking the stairs up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a breathtaking view of the city of Florence.
We left Florence on Monday morning for Milan. Sadly, we didn’t have enough days left to fully explore Milan and being our departure city, we made it our last city to visit.
Where to stay in Milan, Italy
Just like Florence, we also chose to stay in a bed and breakfast in Milan. We stayed at B & B Milano Bella. Check-in was smooth and fast, which I appreciated because we needed to be out in the city touring and exploring it. This bed and breakfast is a two bedroom apartment with a shared kitchen and living room. I loved the decor and ambiance, which was very cozy, inviting and peaceful. The host left a bottle of hard liquor with shot glasses in the dining area for guests to enjoy whenever they want. There were also snacks and fruits for guests. Even though we came prepared, I still loved the fact that he gave us recommendations of things to do.
Things to do in Milan, Italy
Although, we only had one night to spend in Italy, we still made the best use of it and saw the best Milan has to offer. Immediately after checking into our bed and breakfast, we headed straight to the Gothic Duomo. This site is a tourist magnet. We didn’t come at the right time to see the inside of the Duomo in Florence so I was happy we got to see the inside of the Gothic Duomo in Milan. Buying the ticket was fast and easy, there was barely any line, and it was cheaper than I thought. We paid only 6 euros for two tickets. The inside definitely should be one of the wonders of the world. I wished I worshiped there every Sunday. After seeing the Gothic Duomo, we walked to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which is the oldest shopping mall in the world. Other things we did included visiting the Castello Sforzesco and Porta Sempione (the city gate of Milan aka arch of peace aka Milan’s arc de triomphe), we walked around Brera district, lined with boutiques and shops and the perfect area for strolling around aimlessly.
Picture really didn’t do this Duomo justice so I had to take a video of the entire scenery.
After sightseeing and touring the city of Milan, we decided to have dinner at a non-Italian restaurant since we’ve been eating Italian food throughout our stay in Italy. We searched and were very lucky to find a really nice Nigerian restaurant called King’s and Queen’s that was few minutes walk from our bed and breakfast. Their food was tasteful and authentically Nigerian, it felt like we were dinning back home in Nigeria.
How to get around Italy
We booked almost every train ride we took in Italy way ahead of time except our train ride from Milan to Rome. Before booking our train ride from Milan to Rome, I was worried about time and missing our booked train. This part of the planning was very stressful because most of the articles and reviews I read talked about passengers not being able to use their train tickets for the next ride if they miss their booked ride. We needed to be in Rome at a specific time in order to pick up our Papal Audience tickets. I calculated how much time we would spend at the airport from going through customs to picking up our luggage and just concluded that we wouldn’t have enough time to make our booked train ride so, decided it was better we book at the train station. This decision turned out to be a very bad one. Why? Because we ended up paying triple the ticket price and guess what? We still made it on time to take the exact train I initially wanted us to book back in US. I was so sad that we had to spend all that extra money when we could have booked it ahead of time and saved lots of money.
I apologize for taking mad long to finally share our trip experience. It wasn’t done on purpose. I’m studying for some exams and I try to use every free time I have to study and review with my study groups. I plan to blog at least once a month until further notice.
If you are interested in learning more about how you too, as a newlywed, can meet the Pope or anything at all you want to learn about our trip please feel free to shoot me an email or you can leave your comments below.