Matt and I decided to take our 10th wedding anniversary trip early so we could still take a trip to the beach this summer. I think the last trip we took by ourselves was when I was I pregnant with Mati Claire and we went to Hawaii (7 years ago). As hard as it is/was to leave my babies, I do think its good for me and Matt. On any normal given day, we see each other for about 10 minutes in passing in the morning and for about 30 minutes in the evening. Sometimes I wonder how we have 3 kids already ;)
Wow. Italy is one of the must see countries for anyone. Absolutely amazing! Words really can't describe it. Its historical, its romantic, its spiritual, its beautiful, its intellectual, its philosophical, its just amazing! I felt like any minute another tourist was going to physically pick my jaw up off the floor. I felt like I was walking around with my mouth open all the time in awe of the sights.
March/April is a GREAT time to go to Italy. The busy season hasn't started yet and the weather was fantastic! Cold in the shade, in the mornings, and if sitting still… but hot in afternoons, walking, and because most of the hotels don't use their air conditioning except in the middle of summer.
I also have to recommend a private tour guide. We used Miles&Miles group to set up the itinerary and help us plan. My sister and I both loved our guides. They procure your tickets for all the museums and attractions before you arrive. We also got to SKIP all the LONG lines everywhere. You could spend all day just standing in line for the David sculpture. All the guides are history buffs and/or majors. They show you and explain what is important so you don't waste any time. They also pick you up from your hotel and taxi you to and from places - again, so you don't waste any time getting lost or trying to drive in the craziest traffic I have ever seen. Miles&Miles is HIGHLY recommended and worth every penny. We had tour guides Giuseppe, Elena, Marco, Roberto, and Letizia.
I will sum up the itinerary short as possible:
Wednesday - fly out… with layovers, time changes, and 2 flights = a full 24 hours later we arrived on…
Thursday - immediately got off plane and took a 5 hour train ride to Venice. Took a ferry to the Rialto Bridge stop and got lost trying to find our hotel. Checked into Hotel Ai Reali.
Had time to take a quick gondola ride, grab our FIRST food in over 24 hours, and then went to SLEEP! Finally.
Friday - took a 4 hour city walking tour of Venice with our tour guide named Giuseppe "Josie" from Miles&Miles, Inc. She ended the tour at a FABULOUS restaurant called AcquaPazza Ristorante Amalfitano. Quite possibly the best food we had the entire trip.
We then took a 2-3 hour train to Florence. Arrived in Florence that night to our favorite hotel the entire trip, the Hotel Brunelleschi. A medieval building with spacious rooms and an amazing view of the Duomo.
Saturday - took a 4 hour city walking tour of Florence with our tour guide Elena. Ate at an awesome restaurant called Da Tito's. My first rare Florentine steak ever.
Sunday - we were picked up from our hotel by tour guide Marco. He drove us about an hour outside of Florence into the countryside area of Tuscany/Chianti areas. We visited a medieval village called San Gimignano and visited two wineries with a homemade lunch provided. My absolute favorite day of the entire trip! A very nice break from the crowds of people. Returned to Florence to take a 1 hour train to Rome. Checked into Hotel San Anselmo.
Monday - took a 5 hour city tour of Rome with Roberto (the owner of the travel tour guide company we used). The Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon were our favorites of the day.
Tuesday - took a 3 hour walking tour of the Vatican City with tour guide Letizia.
Wednesday - took a 5 hour walking tour of Ancient Rome, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum with tour guide Letizia.
Thursday - flew home! 2 days later, I still have jet lag. ugh!
Its really hard to say what my favorite sight was. You can't really compare an art painting to a sculpture or to a building. And you can't compare a building still being used to a rock foundation of a building that used to be. But having said that, my favorite highlights:
1) the David sculpture in Florence is pretty amazing. And not because he's a 12 foot naked man. I had never learned in history class exactly why he was naked. It represented that fact that he had no defense. He had no shield, no defense armor to fight Goliath. Just the slingshot and his courage. He only had God defending him. That is pretty cool. And then you add the level of detail of a 12 foot beautifully naked man by Michaelangelo in a marble sculpture. We had a camera-Nazi for a tour guide that day so I couldn't sneak a picture of David. Cameras are not allowed at the David or the Sistine Chapel.
2) St. Peter's Basilica. The most beautiful church ever. And it didn't even have the level of mosaics that churches in Florence and Venice had. Actually all the churches will move you in some way. I loved how they ALL told the stories of the Bible on their ceilings. If you walk into any square building I assure you there will be some representation of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in those 4 corners. I could go on and on about this but I'll stop here. Much to say on this subject!
3) Colosseum. The fact that the "building" is still standing is amazing. Its currently surrounded with scaffolds and reinforcements because the vibrations from the subway and cars is causing it to be unstable. They are also in the process of cleaning it because pollution has caused it to turn black in some areas. Personally, I would have to say if you ever plan to go to Italy, do it now. Before most of the buildings fall the rest of the way down. The only point in the trip that I regretted not bringing my kids to see something. The level of engineering from ancient times is also amazing. Very smart people even back then without modern technology.
4) Venice. Gondola ride in Venice. That was on my bucket list. I had always wondered how they built a city on water. Its actually built on marble that is on small islands… its very neat to see a city that is completely dependent on boats. We saw a boat "ambulance", police boats, a boat "garbage truck", water taxis, everything is by boat! There are no cars in Venice. Plus you add Venetian history, art, and ancient buildings that are STILL standing despite the high tides…. on top of water. Beautiful. Did I mention the word amazing??? It kinda sorta reminded me of New Orleans - but even cooler.
5) The Sistine Chapel. Its not as breathtaking as one might expect. The room is much smaller and darker than I expected. I also expected a dome shape chapel that you see in all the other churches…not the case. But its still amazing. Michaelangelo was a real genius.
I took notes on my phone because I wish I had kept a journal. Its a very moving country if that makes any sense. It invokes alot of thought. And not just about the art, sculptures, history, churches, etc. ;)
1) Water is not free flowing.
2) Driving and the "lanes" in Rome. there is no order on the streets - cars just go everywhere. I had to close my eyes a few times in a taxi and just pray for safety.
3) Bidets. yes, I had to try one out to say that I had tried it.
4) Wine with every meal. "wine before water" is their motto I think.
5) At the train station, you have to PAY to use the toilet!
6) Everyone wears black. You could pick out the tourists because they actually wore color.
7) 9 out of 10 people don't take care of themselves.
8) People were either extremely nice or extremely rude. mostly rude (that being said by a true Southerner)
9) Butter and good food do not exist. Good food was hard to find in any tourist area. But we did eat well at some suggested restaurants away from tourist areas. Also they don't use butter. Only olive oil.
10) Restaurants don't open until 7:00pm.
11) Cliches prove true: "mamma mia", striped shirt gondola rowers, accordion players on every corner
12) Leggings are NOT pants, people! apparently that trend is worldwide.
13) Napa doesn't have anything on the Sienna/Tuscany areas
14) People are weird.
15) I kept waiting on James Bond or Jason Bourne to jump out at any moment.
16) Train stations are like Walmart - 10 available lines but only 4 open. And you can people watch all day long.
17) When I thought the South had fried everything known to man… I was wrong! They fry miniature pizzas, fry rice and cheese into little balls, fried squid
18) I got a laugh at the fact that "homemade bread" was considered a dessert. Gelato, tiramisu, truffles, chocolate, oh yes, would you like some more bread??? Like we hadn't had enough already.
19) Every meal is a 5 course meal. Seriously. I still can't figure out how they physically eat so much. Most waiters asked me if I had a problem with my meal because I couldn't finish it.
20) Italy was everything and more! Beautiful and worth every penny.
I took about 500 pictures overall…here are just a few of my faves to give you a slight idea of what we saw. They by no means do anything justice or even show half of what we saw. and yes, I wore my red coat everyday because I pretty much stayed cold most of the time. I didn't post anything about Dante, Galileo, other Michelangelo masterpieces, Caesar Augustus, Julius Caesar, the old Pope's corpses, the monks, the Greek gods, Bernini, Mussolini, tales from the crypt, and the list keeps going…
|Its is bad luck to walk in between in these pillars with Venetian symbols; but the entrance to the square|
|All ceilings in this cathedral are exquisite mosaics.|
|The body was stolen a time or two, but supposedly this the body of St. Mark (Mark as in the Gospel of Mark/New Testament Mark)|
|At the "Bridge of Sighs"; prisoners passed from the building on the left where they were judged to the jail on the right through this bridge.|
|I could take pictures of Venice all.day.long. The yellow boat is an ambulance.|
|The Duomo from the backside|
|The cathedral's main fresco portraying the fall of man.|
|A statue and fountain honoring Cupid! Anniversary trip after all.|
|At Ponte Vecchio in Florence.|
|On the side of the road in front of a vineyard.|
|The winery employee made us do it. Obviously Matt had plenty of wine if he agreed to document it. ;)|
|St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican|
|Paletine Hill; one of the original colosseums|
|Just one small part/view of the Roman Forum|
|Me standing in front of one of the first pharmacies! an ancient pharmacy where they dispensed herbs! I was just a little excited!|
|Oh the Colosseum! There are no words to describe it other than amazing!|
|Miley's - 1 Rome - 10; on the last day I pulled my socks off to find blood! We walked so much that my feet were bleeding! Rome kicked our rear ends. Loved it, but we are glad to be home now!|