View from the Piazza Michelangelo

15 Secret Adventures in Italy Most Tourists Miss. . .

I lived in Italy for a year, and I have a lot of friends asking me for travel recommendations. To make it easier for everyone, I wrote you a blog post packed with all the fun travel tips.

Obviously, you’ve got to catch the art-filled Uffizi, marvel at the sizable Statue of David, eat some pizza in Naples during a trash strike, cruise through a Venice canal in a gondola, and see some Pompeiians frozen in volcanic ash. . .

Gondala Rides in Venice

Gondola Rides in Venice

In between these tourist attractions, I hope you find the time to take the path less traveled, and eat at some of my favorite restaurants along the way.
In case you are planning a trip, here are some of my treasured tips from living the Bella Vita. If you make it to any of the spots below, or find a new place you love, please tweet to me or send me an email. I love hearing about, and living vicariously you.


Almost everything I list is close together, located between the Duomo (the large church in the center of town) and Piazza Santa Croce (meaning Saint Cross Square, where the locals go). Directions and a map can be found at any hotel clerk desk.


1. Piazza Michelangelo

This Piazza on a hill is best known for the miniature Statue of David. Hike or take a bus an exhilarating overlook of Florence.

Fun fact: I met a love of my life here under a full moon, and crazy adventures ensued. It was a movie-like as it sounds, and is the story behind the picture below.

Be sure to catch it at it’s most beautiful, either at at sunset or sunrise.

View from the Piazza Michelangelo

View from the Piazza Michelangelo. That big building is the famous Duomo.

Fancy Restaurants

2. Aqua al Due – Near Piazza St. Croce
This place has the most innovative and delicious food I found in Italy.

Make sure to get the assaggio (tasting sampler) of pasta and dessert so you can try everything. The gorgonzola pasta is my favorite.*

Acqua Al 2 (Water for 2) Dessert Sample

Dessert Tasting


If you eat meat, the decadent and unforgettable steak (Filetto Balsamico) will melt in your mouth.  You can also get it with blueberry sauce if you are feeling extra experimental. Price consideration should fly out the window for food like this.

Balsamic Vinegar Steak

Balsamic Vinegar Steak

3. I Latini Tucked away but worth the search for classic, tuscan style food in a setting where you sit with other people and make friends while you eat. You will be mesmerized by the enormous steaks, and the Zuppa Inglese (English soup cake) is a lovely dessert finale.

Lunch Spots

Quench your appetite in between sight-seeing at these two hidden spots, behind the Duomo to the right.

4. The Oil Shoppe– (open M-F, Via San Edigio)– Delicious, large paninis that are cost efficient (4-12 euro) so you can save up to eat more Florentic steak.

5. Eby’s (Via Sell’ Oriuolo, 5r)– If the Oil Shoppe is closed, or you need a break from pizza, across the street is this South American place. The burritos are good, but the shots are GREAT. Get the *tequila boom boom* or the *bob marley*.


6. Ostello Archi Rossi (Via Faenza 94)
Near the train station is said to be the mythical ‘best’ hostel in Europe. It might be folklore. I was never able to score a room, but I’ve heard rumors of hot-tubs and free wireless internet. Definitely make reservations in advance if your a hostel-hopping twenty-something.


Casual Dinner

7. Il Gatto e La Volpe (The Cat and the Fox)-Via Ghibellina 151/r, S. Croce
A Pinocchio-themed Osteria where my friend Fatjon works (ask for him if you go).*

8. Osteria de’Peccatori (Restaurant of Sinners) Piazza San Firenze, 14r- between Piazza della Signoria and Piazza St. Croce.
Always open, has great pizza, and even better prices. My favorite is the pizza diavolo (devil pizza) which is just an exciting name for spicy pepperoni.

'Beware of Death' Sign on the famous Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) in Florence, Italy

‘Beware of Death’ Sign on the famous Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) in Florence, Italy

Apertivo (Cocktail Hour)

Unlike Americans who charge obscene prices for small plates and tapas, Europe gives these treats away for free. Apertivo is a very popular Italian tradition the perfect excuse to enjoy delicious, complimentary food with your glass of wine.

The bars listed below are behind the Duomo and near Piazza St. Croce. They are also close together along the same street, making it easier to stumble back and forth between when inebriated.

9. Moyo
 (St. Croce) Happy hour 6-10 p.m.

All you have to do is buy a drink and you get unlimited free food. It’s classy and locals like to hang out there (a rare find in Florence).

Going Out

10. BeBop – at the Duomo on the left side (Via de Servi 76/r)
Last I checked (almost 10 years ago), every Tuesday featured a Beatles cover band, and Thursdays headline a 90’s flashback Oasis cover band. Nothing is more fun that listening to American pop songs crooned in Italian.

This hole-in-the-wall is trendy, laid-back, and fun, with live music every night.

11. Salamanca(St. Croce)
n atmospheric Spanish bar with exotic specialty drinks and Tapas.


12. San Lorenzo Market 

Italy, especially Florence, is known for quality Italian leather. This market often has the best prices for souvenirs, so long as you are ready to whip out your negotiation skills.

Random Tips:

Italian shoes (particularly boots) are very well-made and a great purchase to make in Italy. Americans are most easy to spot by unfashionable footwear, so grab a pair fast if you don’t want to stand out as a tourist.

If you go to an Irish Pub anywhere in Italy, order the Guinness drink called “Liverpool Kiss”.

When it comes to Florence, I recommend you escape town to take a day trip to the quaint hill towns like Sienna, Cortona, or the islands of Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre







Rome is huge and filled with lots of jewels. I could write all day about the things to see and do. You should probably just chose your own adventure, but I will advice you to venture out to Trestevere (food), and Tesataccio (going out) to see the real Rome.

Testaccio Bridge at dusk

Testaccio Bridge at dusk

Best Gelato I Found

13. Della Palma Gelato (By the Pantheon, Roma Via della Maddalena 20).

You are bound to run into a some Roman ruins, doubling as a cat sanctuary. If you do, keep an eye out for l’arte della pizza for mind-blowing pizza portare via (take away).

Gatti di Roma (Cats of Rome)

Gatti di Roma (Cats of Rome)

14. Vila Borghese
– A lush park with a view that makes for a great picnic spot with a view, or a canoe trip.

Villa Borghese Canoe Trip

Villa Borghese Canoe Trip

When in Rome, remember to throw a coin in the Trevi fountain and make a wish. If you have time, catch a soccer game, take a train out of town to the beach, and explore the famous catacomb burial grounds.


Carnivale in Venice

Street art in Rome