Bold, bright, lively: Italy in 10 days

Caitlin Guilfoyle
A journey through Italy offers a kaleidoscope of colour

Pick a colour, any colour. No matter the shade, you'll find it in Italy.

From pastel buildings and rolling green slopes to deep red wine and creamy gelato, a short voyage through this vibrant country is like stepping in to a whirring kaleidoscope - particularly if you're attempting a quick, 10-day jaunt.

Many would consider it mad to spend a short time in such a varied destination, particularly after a gruelling 20-hour flight.

But plot your journey carefully and it is possible to experience "authentic" Italy, whether it's in the city, at sea or among more sparse scenery.

The capital Rome is undeniably a feast for the eyes, particularly the must-see historical precincts, which are best discovered as part of tour group if you don't want to line up for hours.

Intricate artworks at the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica manage to evoke a sense of awe and reverence, despite the teeming summer crowds.

The warmer months - anywhere from May to August - do attract tourists in droves, but they seem to congregate in particular areas, leaving others a little more untouched.

Parts of rural Tuscany - we stayed at an estate named Fattoria Mansi Bernadini, about 20 minutes' drive from the city of Lucca - offer respite, olive trees and vineyards as far as the eye can see, narrow roads and locals who offer delicious fares, even if they don't speak English.

If you're travelling cheaply, you won't be disappointed ordering the "rosso della casa" (house red wine) in this region.

Jump on a train for a couple of hours and you're in the coastal Cinque Terre, a veritable Crayola box where stacks of buildings in brilliant hues are nestled across the landscape of five small villages - extremely Insta-worthy.

Each of the seaside towns has its own unique charm and, while there are still plenty of tourists when the mercury rises, cars are sparse, minimising the overall impact of the influx.

Fresh anchovies are a star dish and they pair perfectly with a cool glass of white, which is the better drop in this region, according to friendly locals.

The people of Italy certainly add an extra element of vigour to their already eye-popping nation.

Our first "taxi" driver (in hindsight, it's doubtful he was legitimate, grabbing us in a hurry as we dragged our jet-lagged bodies from a lengthy airport queue) stopped suddenly on the side of a busy road in Rome, leaping from the car and telling us "one minute".

We sat, staring wide-eyed at each other, as he bolted into a nearby cafe, leaving the key in the ignition and the car running, before returning less than a minute later.

"I just had to give some money to my cousin," he explained.

Bold, bright, lively. That's a snapshot of Italy.

TIPS FOR AUSTRALIANS TRAVELLING IN ITALY

1. Be prepared for a long flight. We travelled Etihad Airways, roughly 14 hours from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi and a further five and a half hours to Rome.

2. Bring comfortable, flat shoes. You will be doing lots of walking.

3. Eat the gelato! It's delicious and generally cheap. Worry about your waistline later.

4. Chat to the locals. The best tips, especially regarding food and wine, come from people who know the area well.

5. Try to pack clothes that don't require much ironing. We struggled to find an iron, even in fairly nice hotels.

6. Don't expect free tap water in restaurants or cafes. You will probably need to buy it bottled, either natural or sparkling.

7. Remember, cars travel on the other side of the road. This is especially important to observe when you're crossing.

8. Try to speak basic Italian. Any effort is appreciated, even it's just "ciao" or "grazie".

9. Each region has its own food and wine specialty - for example, parts of the Cinque Terre are known for pesto, anchovies and lemons, while Naples is famous for pizza. Find out what the area's star dishes are and be sure to indulge.

10. You will need to cover your shoulders when you enter sacred places like St Peter's Basilica.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE: Numerous airlines fly between Australian capitals and Rome, including China Airlines, Qatar Airways and Etihad.

STAYING THERE: Rome Garden Hotel is very central and affordable, with gardens surrounding the rooms. Visit https://www.romegardenhotel.com/

Fattoria Mansi Bernadini offers spectacular views of Tuscany. Visit https://www.fattoriamansibernardini.com/

Monterosso Bed and Sea is an apartment with it's own rooftop and incredible views of the ocean at the Cinque Terre. Visit http://www.monterossobedandsea.com/

PLAYING THERE: Flight Centre booked us a tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Basilica and the Colosseum. The company was Carrani Viaggi e Turismo. Visit https://www.carrani.com/

The writer travelled at her own expense.