Travel Photography: Italy

Last year, in 2012, my wife and I traveled to Italy.  We’ve talked about going there ever since we met 7 years ago in 2005.  It finally happened and it was a blast.  We traveled 4 cities: Rome, Florence, Santa Margherita Ligure, and Venice.

After our Paris trip, I decided to wise up and pack lighter camera equipment.  This time around, I only packed an Olympus OM-D E-M5, Panasonic 14mm 2.5, Panasonic 20mm 1.7, and Olympus 45mm 1.8.  I also packed a small Tamrac tripod and a B+W 10 stop ND filter for all my lenses.  Best ~$100 I ever spent on a travel kit (for the ND filter and tripod).  The ND filter is to stop your shutter speed down to 2-4 seconds in broad daylight.  In order to make this useful, you’ll need a tripod to keep it steady.  You’ll see examples of this technique as you keep reading.

I will try to touch on some of the more interesting parts of my trip and my favorite shots, as it would take far too long to document everything here.  The coffee table book we made from this trip was nearly 200 pages!


Rome is probably the most densely packed historical place I’ve ever been to.  It truly is a city built upon cities.  Walking through the streets you’ll find ancient ruins and new discoveries about its past.

Largo di Torre Argentina

Largo di Torre Argentina, where Julius Caesar was killed.  14mm

We were on our way to the Pantheon when we passed by Largo di Torre Argentina, where Julius Caesar was assassinated.  It is currently known as the Cat Sanctuary because you’ll find dozens of cats using it as shelter.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon was the first attraction on our list as it was closest to our bed and breakfast.  If you look closely at the people underneath and how big the doorway is, you’ll get a sense of the scale.  It is a beautiful piece of architecture.  I was sad to learn that the marble and gold it used to be covered in was later removed to decorate St. Peter’s Square.  If you look at the top where the holes are, that’s where the gold was attached.

Horse Carriage in front of Pantheon

The Pantheon, 14mm

Trevi Fountain

The Trevi fountain was by far one of my favorite attractions in Rome.  It doesn’t have the sheer mass as the others (although it is quite large in its own right), but the structure itself is beautiful.  I had to crop the left side out because it was under construction, but it’s still one of my favorites nonetheless.  I would recommend going at night when it’s lit up, it is especially amazing.

Trevi Fountain at night

Trevi Fountain at night, 14mm


Nothing exciting, I just loved the Pizza here.  Very thin crust, full of flavor, highly recommended.

Forno Campo de Fiori

Forno Campo de Fiori, our favorite Pizza in Italy

The Roman Forum

This is a panorama shot from inside the Colosseum.  This was the only way to get a sweeping view of it short of flying a helicopter.  The photos I shot from inside the Forum were not as interesting.

Roman Forum

Roman Forum from Colosseum.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum needs no introduction.  If you’ve seen Gladiator, you know what it’s all about.  It’s difficult to convey the scale of the Colosseum without being there.  I had to stitch roughly 10 vertical shots to fit it all in.

Colosseum Interior

Inside the Colosseum

Colosseum at night

Colosseum at night, shot with 10 stop ND filter and tripod at twilight

Since 28mm equivalent isn’t all that wide, I made my wife climb up to the top of the bus/train station with me for this shot.  This was shot at twilight with the 10 stop ND filter to capture the motion of the clouds and traffic.

Saint Peter’s Square

Saint Peter’s Square.  I tend to have bad luck going to places when they’re under construction.  Shot with the 14mm, handheld.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Square stitched from 12 shots


I know there are more interesting things to write about in Florence, but this one is worth noting.  This is one of the best gelato places we’ve been to.  They make their own chocolate, and all their other flavors are phenomenal as well.  Definitely worthy of several visits!


Home of the best Chocolate Gelato ever.

Florence is actually known for their Florentine steak and leather.  Be sure to make reservations on the more popular restaurants, the one we tried to go to was booked that night :(


Santa Margherita Ligure

One of the five beautiful coastal towns we visited.  Absolutely beautiful place.  The vibe was much different from all the other cities we visited.  It was very laid back, it’s where the Italians go to vacation, it was perfect after visiting several busier cities.

Santa Margherita Ligure

Santa Margherita Ligure at night. Tripod, long exposure.

During the day, we took the ferry (which I highly recommend) to Portofino, a neighboring coastal town.  It was full of tourists for good reason.  There are only a few things to see, but the overall experience was very unique.

The beautiful Portofino

The beautiful Portofino

We also visited Vernazza, another coastal town.  All of them are just slightly different enough to go for a short visit if you’re in the area.  Unfortunately, when we went, the hiking trails between the cities were closed due to mud slides a few days earlier.  If you ever get the chance, try out the hiking trail for some breathtaking views.


Vernazza, 8 second exposure in broad daylight


Venice was a lot smaller than I thought it would be.  It is a city built on water after all. You can probably walk from one end to the other in about an hour.  If you go to Italy, try to visit Venice for at least a day.  Don’t spend too long there though, as there really isn’t that much to do there except gondola rides, site seeing, and exploring the local markets.

View from Rialto Bridge

View from Rialto Bridge, with 10 stop ND filter and tripod

Tips for Travel

Overall, I would make sure you pack at light as possible – doing so will allow traveling from city to city on trains much more enjoyable.  You’re also not as prone to be targets of pickpockets.  Pickpockets will target those who have too many things to manage because they’re more easily distracted, and won’t notice if anything is missing until it’s too late.

Prepare a light day pack, especially cameras.  There is much to see, so you don’t want to be tired hauling your gear around.  I brought along everything below in a small messenger bag:

  1. Olympus OM-D E-M5
  2. Panasonic 14mm 2.5
  3. Panasonic 20mm 1.7
  4. Olympus 45mm 1.8
  5. Tamrac Zipshot mini tripod
  6. B+W 10 stop ND filter
  7. Water
  8. Maps

I would also invest in a money belt to wear under your clothing for your money, passports, train tickets, basically anything that cannot be easily replaced.  Also be inconspicuous when getting money out of it in public.  Some thieves are way too good!

Most importantly, remember to have fun and splurge a little.  You’ve already spent lots of money getting there, go make it worthwhile :)

Please consider using the links provided to purchase the recommended items so I can get some kickbacks to write more articles.  Many thanks in advance!

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