Aside from the buzz of the Christmas period, Winter can be a pretty boring season. In the UK, the cold drags on from October right the way into April before things warm up a little (we’re talking about 10 degrees or so). It can be hard to feel positive in the winter when the days are short, the temperature is freezing and you can’t leave the house without at least 100 layers. It’s also hard to be sociable- days in the park are replaced by days in bed with Netflix and a box of pizza, and we might be guilty of cancelling on one or two nights out.
To make things a little bit better, for the last couple of winters Laur and I have spent our time travelling round cities in Europe and visiting new places with our boyfriends. Last week, I jetted off to Italy with my boyfriend, Tom, stopping off at Rome, for 2 days, before heading onto Venice.
After reading a couple of travel guides, I felt inspired- but after actually going there for myself, I realised that, glamorous as they were, none of the guides were actually aimed at people on a budget. Being students (and having planned a million more trips in 2018), Tom and I were a little limited on spending money! We found that we were especially running low on the last couple of days, and would definitely have benefited from a few money-saving tips beforehand. With this in mind, I have created a budget-friendly travel guide for anyone who is thinking of going to Italy.
By far the easiest way to travel through Rome is by the Metro. We paid around 7 euros for a day ticket which not only let us on trains, but also buses and trams too. It was such a amazing deal as you tend to use the Metro A LOT each day in Rome as you travel to so many places. There are maps in each station which show you all the different stops- I was a little confused at first as there’s loads of different coloured lines (a bit like the underground in London) but it’s quite easy to pick up! In terms of monuments and attractions, the metro map will usually mention if there is anything significant at that stop, but if you want to be totally prepared, you could always do a quick Google beforehand! From the airport, we got the bus straight to a metro station and were in the middle of Rome City center in no time at all.
One of the reasons why Winter travelling is so great in European cities is that attractions and monuments tend to be a lot quieter than in the Summer. This meant that, even though things were a bit chillier, we barely had to queue for anything! Over the two days, we visited the Colosseum, Vatican City and the Trevi Fountain. My ultimate favourite was the Colosseum, as it’s such an iconic building. To save money, we didn’t actually pay to go inside- a lot of the inside is unsafe to walk on therefore you don’t actually get to see the whole building like you do from the outside.
The Vatican City (home to the Pope) was also beautiful and full of history. You have to pay to get in here, though if you’re a student show your card and you get half price entry. I think we paid around 7 euros each to get in- such a bargain! Whilst we were there, we also paid to climb the really high dome at the top of the Pope’s house. I can’t remember exactly how much we paid, but I think it was around 10 euros per person. It’s really worth doing! There’s over 1000 steps leading to the top (perfect for if you’re feeling bad for skipping the gym) and the walls get more narrow the higher you get. The 360 degree views from the top were amazing, we could see pretty much the whole of Rome.
We headed to the Trevi fountain when it went dark, as we were told that it was best to visit at night. It was absolutely gorgeous, but it’s a long way to go when you don’t actually spend much time there! So maybe it would be a good place to stop off for a meal. Apparently, if you throw a coin over your shoulder and it lands in the fountain, you will visit Rome again in the future. I hope so!
PLACES TO EAT
My ultimate favourite place to eat was in a small cafe overlooking the Colosseum. I can imagine it’s packed full in the summer, but at the time we went it was nice and quiet, and we were able to take a seat outside and eat pizza with an amazing view! The price was so cheap at around 11 euros per pizza. We also had lunch in a cafe next to the Vatican; we had to select our food from the counter and take a seat. When the food was brought over to us, the portion sizes were massive! It was probably a little bit naive of us, but we’d expected that because the food was behind the counter, it would only be small servings. Boy, were we wrong! I had chosen chicken and veg. The plate of veg was bigger than the plate of chicken! Tom was given a huge plate of spaghetti, a huge plate of meatballs and then some bruschetta which none of us could remember ordering. All in all, the meal was okay, but the 60 euro bill was a nasty surprise! We made it a rule to check the menu for prices after that- and if the restaurant doesn’t have a price list, don’t risk it like we did! Aside from that, we ate at our hotel as it was quite far from the city. They put on an amazing all you can eat buffet every night for only 15 euros.
That brings me onto the topic of our hotel. We stayed in a place called The Black Hotel, which was a little too far away from the city for our liking. It was easy enough to get to by the metro, however it was then around a half an hour walk to the hotel (which isn’t great when you don’t know where you’re going!) The hotel offered a free shuttle service to the metro station in the morning, however nothing at night. It was about a 5 minute walk to a local supermarket, however there were no bars our restaurants in sight, which is why we found it easier to eat in the hotel restaurant.
We stayed in Rome from the 10th to the 12th of December, and the weather was lovely. The first day was a bit chilly, but the second and third days were averaging 17 degrees and we didn’t need our coats. There was a little rain but just 10 minutes or so of drizzle. We felt quite sad to get on the plane to Venice!
At first, Venice is a bit of a confusing old place. For starters, I didn’t know that we wouldn’t actually be landing on Venice itself, but on the mainland close to it (bit of a ditzy moment, I know, but I clearly hadn’t done my research!) Because of this, you have to travel from the mainland to the island which takes a bit of time, depending on what transport you use. Having never been to Venice before, Tom and I decided to be major tourists and take the water taxi. This is a boat which stops outside the airport and takes people over to Venice (crazy, eh?). It cost 27 euros each for an open return trip, which was kinda painful to pay when we were running low on cash. The trip was also super long (I’d say over an hour and a half), and once we’d got past the novelty of being on a water taxi, the impatience does start to kick in. Later on in our trip, we realised that there is also a road which leads from the mainland to Venice! If you use this, it’s only 3 euros for a ticket and is a lot quicker (the moment of realising this was a pretty horrible one). You can also take a speedboat from the airport to Venice, which I imagine would get you there quicker than the water taxi! However it costs a lot more and wasn’t even something we were considering in the freezing cold. Aside from the initial travel from the airport, Venice is a pretty small place, meaning you don’t need to catch any metros or anything like that. I’d recommend getting a map though- we’d have been totally lost without ours!
As we were pretty low on money when we got to Venice, I can’t tell you much about the monuments, as most of them were pay for entry (around 7 to 10 euros per attraction). St Marc’s square is the place to be, as this seems to be where the most historical buildings are situated. There’s also loads of churches dotted around the island which you can go and explore! However, I can hand on heart say that you can go to Venice with no money at all and still have the most amazing time. From the minute we arrived, I was so fascinated by how beautiful everything was, I was constantly taking Tom on detours to look at pretty bridges and buildings. The water is the clearest blue and if you fancy a ride round Venice, you can pay for a Gondola which is around 70 euros for two people. We were pretty sad that this was out of our budget, as it’s definitely something which you should experience when you’re in Venice.
One thing this is an absolute MUST is to take a boat trip to Buarno. For anyone who doesn’t know, Buarno is a colourful, pretty fishing island just off from Venice (and probably one of the most Instagrammable places in the world). We bought our tickets in advance, which were around 25 euros for the two of us, and were worth every penny. It was honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, and it was so quiet with it being winter, meaning it felt like we had the whole island to ourselves.
PLACES TO EAT
The whole of Venice is absolute foodie heaven. From ice cream shops selling flower-shaped cones, to patisseries and cute little cafes, Venice really does have it all. It’s actually pretty lucky that we didn’t have much money left at this point, or we wouldn’t have fit on the plane home! I would recommend trying the cannolo, which is a small pastry tube filled with what tastes like white chocolate flavored cream cheese- it’s absolute heaven. They’re sold at various prices, but we found one at a bargain for 1.50 euros. In the evenings, we ate on the main island where our hotel was situated. Here, the area is a lot more built up and you can find a selection of bars, pubs and restaurants.
As mentioned, our hotel was on the mainland, which was a 15 minute bus ride from Venice bus station. Tickets cost 3 euros, which in comparison to the water taxi is an absolute bargain, and takes a lot less time to get there. If you’re staying on the mainland like us, I’d recommend to taking a look on TripAdvisor before your travels to find out which number bus you should take and which stop you should get off at, as this is really helpful with there being quite a few stops! We stayed at the Centrale, which has lovely views over the town and was in a great location close to a supermarket, bars and restaurants. We also got free breakfast which was an added bonus!
Oh my gosh, going from Rome to Venice is such a big temperature difference! From the minute we stepped off the plane we were freezing cold, and had to stop off at a restaurant as soon as we arrived in order to warm up. Temperatures were around 5 degrees and bitterly cold, and, although we still had an amazing time here, I think we would have both benefited from it being a bit warmer. At some parts of the day (in particular the evening) it was hard to feel motivated to walk around the touristy places, as all we wanted to do was stay inside in the warm. We both agreed that if we returned again (which I definitely will be doing), a better time to go would be around April or October, as the weather would be a lot easier to walk around in, and hopefully there wouldn’t be as many tourists as in the middle of Summer.
All in all, I would one hundred percent recommend that you travel to Rome and Venice, especially if you’re a blogger and you’re looking for good places to photograph! My tips would be to travel off peak (Winter, early Spring or Autumn) to avoid the crowds, plan in advance for any travel, and if you travel around the time that we did, make sure you’re prepared for the cold!