Ciao! Well, I haven’t updated this blog for some time now because after graduation, Sam and I went to Italy for 3 weeks. Then we were living with my mom in Houston for about a month until we moved to California where we will be for some time now. Now that I am finally moved in, I actually have some time to update things, and I thought I would start with our trip to Italy. I am going to try and condense our Italy trip to just one photo per place visited and I am going to keep to the highlights since it was such a long trip. In reality, I took over 1500 pictures. We started in Northern Italy and then made our way down to Southern Italy. We began by flying into Milan…
We flew into Milan’s Malpensa airport and then took a train into the center of Milan. We wandered around for about 30 minutes with all of our luggage looking for our hotel, and finally found it. We stayed at Hotel Vecchia Milano. The picture is of their big Duomo there in town, which is basically all we saw there because we didn’t stay too long. Beautiful though. I got my first gelato in Milan too.
From Milan we caught a train to this cute little place called Varenna, near lake Como. We stayed at Hotel Villa Cipressi. Our first day here we took it easy. We just wandered around, ate good food, took naps, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Did you know George Clooney has a villa somewhere near this area? Unfortunately, George was out of town and so we couldn’t go visit him… I think he was really torn up about missing us. Oh well, C’est la vie. haha.
The second day here we got a ferry pass and went to the other little towns near Varenna, like Bellagio and Cadenabbia, where we just window shopped and ate. At Cadenabbia we went to the Villa Carlotta which is an old villa here that is maintained through tourism. More gelato, a hike, and a fantastic dinner. I am going to do a post later on the food in Italy, so I won’t go into detail here.
On our way to the Dolomites we stopped in Verona where we took a guided tour to get some history overview, which was interesting. We went and saw “Juliet’s Balcony” and Sam touched Juliet’s breast because it’s apparently supposed to mean you will find love ;), not sure why he is looking? haha. We ate (do you see a theme here?), walked around, then headed out for the Dolomites.
4. Alpe di Siusi
This was one of my favorite places. Maybe because I am in love with mountains, I don’t know, but I loved it here. However, it was more like being in Austria than Italy because most of the people here speak German first and Italian second. We stayed at Hotel Seelaus. Our first day here we mainly just took everything in and then ate dinner.
The next day we went on a hike through the meadows. Had an awesome lunch. Then more hiking. Then we took a 2 hour nap, had dinner, and then skyped with friends and family! This place is on my must visit again list. Apparently they have great skiing here, and in July there is a lot of good climbing and hiking, and in the fall there is paragliding. Fun. Fun. Fun.
After leaving the Dolomites, we stopped in Bolzano to see the town and to see Otzi, the 5,300 year old ice man that has his own little museum in the town. Pretty amazing how well preserved he was. The town here was really cute, and they had the most amazing farmers market! I told Sam I would want to live here so I could go down to the farmers market every morning to get fresh foods for dinner, and then it would only be an hour or less drive to the mountains for climbing and skiing. It would be perfect. We walked around the town, ate a quick pizza lunch, got gelato and then left for Venice.
We took a boat into Venice which was really cool, and checked into our hotel, Hotel Serenissima, which was really close to St.Marks square. Our first night there we just went to dinner, walked around, and then went on a classic gondola ride. We had one of those guys who sings on the gondola to you and we also had prosecco during the ride. At first i didn’t want to do a gondola ride because it felt super touristy, but I’m glad we did, and doing it during the night was so much better because it was hardly busy at all.
Our second day in Venice actually ended up being our 3yr wedding anniversary (insert awhs), and to start off the day I knocked Sam’s contact lens case into the drain so we spent the whole morning fishing it out with my toothbrush. We did a walking tour of Venice in the morning, where I got pooped on by a seagull ( watch out for the seagulls, they poop where they please). We got to see a mask making demonstration. We went to St. Marks Basillica, did some shopping, and then ate some lunch away from the main square. then we went to Frari church, got some macaroons, and then went back to nap at the hotel. After napping we went to the Doges Palace. Then went to the Campanile Tower to get a good view of Venice. To end our sightseeing for the day we went to the Correr Museum. By this time we were exhausted, so all we wanted to do was eat a really long dinner, get a little tipsy, and relax… So we did. We had one of our best dinners here in Venice, great seafood, but I’ll go into details on that on a later post.
Venice is great during the night and early morning, but during the afternoon it starts to feel like an amusement park, so you need to escape to the less touristy places during the day, but all in all we loved Venice.
We stayed in Hotel Academia in Florence, and our first day here Sam and I went to the Medici Chapel where they had these really huge ornate tombs for the Medici Family. We took a walking tour around Florence and ended at the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David and some other pieces of art and sculpture. We rested a bit and then went to dinner.
Our second day in Florence we went to the Uffizi Gallery we got to see some of the famous Da Vinci paintings, Botticelli, and Michelangelo, but the museum was going on strike so we could only stay for about an hour. Then Sam and I went to walk around inside the Duomo (shown above) and then made our way to the Duomo Museum. We had lunch, more gelato, and then headed over to the Santa Croce Church where you can find the tombs of famous people like Michelangelo and Galileo. We walked over the Ponte Vecchio bridge toward the Pitti Palace and at the Pitti Palace we saw Galleria Palatina, the apartments, and the modern art museum in there. After this we were pretty exhausted so we napped and then later went to dinner… and then got more gelato.
On our way to the Cinque Terre, we stopped in Pisa to see the leaning tower, which was pretty cool. We also went inside the church there that you see in front of the tower.
9. Monterosso, Cinque Terre
This place is beautiful, and we stayed in a really amazing hotel called Villa Steno. The Cinque Terre is known for its seafood and pesto, so naturally we had these a lot here on our visit. Our first day here we got here later in the day so we rested from traveling and then went to this pesto making demonstration (the old fashioned way with a pestle and mortar) and then had an AMAZING dinner made by this old woman. She made the most incredible pesto lasagna I have ever had in my life, and the great thing is, is that I got the recipe from her. I just need to try and make it myself. Also, we drank so much at this meal, and so naturally following this dinner we wanted to keep the night going. We ended up running into a dj/concert thing going on in the center of Monterosso and ended up joining in on the dancing. It was a lot of fun.
We started out our next day later and enjoyed sleeping in. We purchased ferry and hiking passes so that we could go explore some of the other towns in the Cinque Terre and do a little bit of hiking between the towns. We first to the ferry over to a town called Riomaggiore where the picture above is taken, and we had lunch here. Then we did this little “hike” (more like a stroll) called Via Dell’Amore to the next town called Manarola. We didn’t actually spend much time in Manarola though because we wanted to catch the next train to Corniglia, which is this cute little town on top of these hills. When the train dropped us off we climbed over 300 steps to Corniglia and had some amazing gelato and walked around. After this we went back to Monterosso so that we could go spend some time at the beach before dinner. After dinner we ended up going to a bar and had this stuff called grappe, which is like Italian moonshine… super strong.
I’d love to come back to the Cinque Terre and do some more hiking, relaxing, eating more good food, and drinking more good wine and liquor. It was a really neat place.
Before we left Monterosso, I got pooped on again by another seagull… second time in Italy. What’s the deal? Before hitting our final destination, Siena, we stopped by Lucca, which is this big fortified town that still has its original wall surrounding it. In the picture above I am standing on that wall, and it is pretty cool because you can go up on the wall and bike around it. We didn’t end up doing this because it was kind of raining when we got there, but it would be cool to do if we ever went back.
While we were here, we basically just walked around, saw many of there beautiful churches, had lunch, gelato, and then headed out for Siena.
Siena was really cool, very classy. You didn’t see the same poverty here that you see in a lot of other Italian towns. We stayed at Hotel Chiusarelli. We walked around and saw the big Campo which is shown above and then went to dinner, which was excellent. Walking home from dinner was beautiful because the sky was this deep blue and the brown of the buildings just made an awesome combo.
The next day in Siena we started off doing a tour of Siena, where we got to learn all about the Palio horse races that they do in the big Campo, which would be cool to come back and see one day. We went to the Duomo in Siena and then went to this stained glass shop and got to learn how they make big stained glass windows. Then Sam and I did some shopping where I got a Chirstmas ornament for our trip. Then we went to this grocery store called Consorzio Agrario Siena where we got lunch and this desert that is popular here called il panforte di Siena, which is basically like a fruitcake, but it was really good! We took our food and the panforte to the Campo and ate it picnic style there. After lunch we went to the church Basilica Cateriniana di S. Domenico and saw St. Catherines head and thumb… which is strange to me. Then we walked back to the Duomo and went inside the Duomo Museum where we saw some of the original paintings and sculptures from the Duomo and we also got to go up to a high point and see a good view of Siena. We walked back to the hotel and got gelato and then rested at the hotel until dinner. For dinner we got to participate in typical Palio horse race celebration dinner. Basically we went to one of the 17 neighborhoods and this family threw us and some other people a typical dinner that would take place in celebration of their neighborhood winning the bi-annual horse race. It was pretty cool and the food was great. They fed us so much and it seemed like we had an endless amount of wine.
Next we were headed to an agritourismo (a place that is a hotel and winery in one), but on our way there we stopped in Assisi. There are two parts of Assisi, a new and old Assisi. In the new part of Assisi we toured the Santa Maria Degli Angeli, where we saw the cahpel inside that was given to St. Francis. Then we headed up to old Assisi where we picked up lunch (seen in Sam’s hand above) in the Piazza del Comune and took it beside the St. Clare Church and picnicked. The sandwiches were delicious, and the view of Umbria was amazing. We hung out in this spot for a while, people watched, and got gelato. Later in the day we did a tour of Assisi and got to see a lot of the old Roman remains there like the Roman Temple and some old Roman walls. We finished by touring the Basilica of St. Francis, and then headed to our agritourismo.
As mentioned before, we stayed at an agritourismo which is basically a hotel and a winery at the same time. Our specific agritourismo was called La Rocca Orvieto Agritourismo. This was a nice vacation from our vacation. After settling in here, we went to a wine tasting put on by the hotel for the grapes they grow there. We got to taste 4 of the 6 wines that they produce there. We had 2 red wines and 2 white wines. My favorites were Albaco (a white wine) and Lavico (a red wine). Click here for more information on their wines, you can actually order them and have them shipped to you in the states. They apparently have a vendor in the United States that makes the shipping costs more affordable. Following the wine tasting we had a fabulous dinner there at the hotel.
The next day we took a short day trip up to Orvieto, which I talk about in the next section, but when we got back we went and played bocce ball and then relaxed at the pool swimming and reading (overlooking the vineyards). We ate another fabulous dinner and then went to bed to get ready for Rome.
The main attraction here in Orvieto was the beautiful Duomo that you see in the picture above. We toured the church and got to see some amazing frescos and an interesting pieta. Then Sam and I went to the National Archeological Museum, which was cool. We wandered around a bit, had lunch, got gelato, sat on a bench and people watched, and then headed back to our agritourismo.
Ahhh Rome. Get ready because we did a lot in Rome in only two days. In Rome we stayed at a hotel called Hotel Sonya. When we first arrived it was about lunch, so we found a place near our hotel to eat. Then we met a tour guide at the Colosseum to get a tour of many of Rome’s highlights. We started at the Colosseum and she told us a lot of interesting things about it, including that the Colosseum used to be covered in beautiful colored marble. In fact, she said to imagine Rome in technicolor. It only now looks all white because of theft and looting after Rome’s downfall. We saw the Arch of Constantine and also walked through the Roman Forum. We walked up Capitol Hill to the Piazza del Campidogllo. We walked through some quaint little Roman neighborhoods until we reached The Pantheon which was amazing and so well preserved. At this point it was about dinner time, so we grabbed a bite to eat before heading to Piazza Navona where we saw the Four River’s Fountain. Then we went to the Trevvi fountain where we each threw in one cent coins over our shoulders, which is supposed to mean that we will return to Rome one day. We ended our long day by getting gelato and climbing the Spanish steps.
16. The Vatican
We started off our second day in Rome by going to the Vatican. First we toured the huge Vatican Museum which is filled of some incredible historical items and paintings; then we toured the Sistine Chapel. We stayed and looked at the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel for a long time. It was pretty incredible. All the paintings on the ceiling looked 3D. We ended our tour of the Vatican at St. Peter’s Basilica. Talk about decadent. This church was huge, and it was filled with so much gold and marble, and Michelangelo’s famous Pieta.
After the Vatican, Sam and I got some lunch and then went to the National Museum of Rome, which I really enjoyed. It wasn’t as packed as a lot of other places and it had some really cool sculptures and Roman artwork. We ended our last night in Rome with an amazing dinner, and then got ready for our flight back to Texas.
All in all, the Italy trip was amazing. It was packed with museums, churches, good food and amazing wine. I am really glad we took advantage of the vacation time I had before starting work to go here, and according to the coins we threw over our shoulders into the Trevvi fountains, we will at least be coming back to Rome again sometime in our lives. Ciao.