Ciao Bella! All Aboard for Italia
Updated: Aug 10
When you think of Italy, you think pasta, wine, seafood, romance, history and Lizzie McGuire. Or is that just me that thinks of Lizzie McGuire and the song This Is What Dreams Are Made Of? Italy was all I thought it would be. The history and culture were blooming. I wanted to take in everything Italy had to offer. In one week, my friends traveled to three major Italian cities: Rome, Florence and Venice. Ready to hop onto the Italian Railway to join my journey? All aboard! First stop, Rome!
We only had one full day in Rome and we were on a mission to see all that we could. My only requirement that was a must see for me was the Trevi Fountain (to have my Lizzie McGuire moment). We got up early and took a 15 minute train ride into the heart of Rome.
Our first destination was Vatican City to see St Peter's Basilica and The Sistine Chapel. As we were walking, people were trying to stop us to purchase tour tickets. Eventually, we did stop for one lady, who was originally from New York. She told us because it was Wednesday there was a special service happening with the Pope and the Vatican won't open up to the public again for another 3 hours. She told us to look down the street to see how long the line was just to get into the Vatican. She was right! In the end, we decided to purchase a ticket to tour the Vatican Museum and The Sistine Chapel. Since we bought tickets, my friends and I got to experience a service from the Pope from a distance and we missed the long line. As we walked around this historic location, I couldn't help but think of the people that have walked along these stones before me. Great popes, royalty and just wishing the walls could talk to unload the history. One place that was just breath taking was the Sistine Chapel, but something that ruined it was the talking. In the chapel, you aren't suppose to talk because it's a holy place nor are you allowed to take pictures. You should of seen people snapping pictures with their phone and tablets. A guard at the front of the door started yelling to be quiet. I never seen something so disrespectful because it's not just a holy place anymore. It's now a considered a tourist destination. Just no respect.
As we finished our journey within the Vatican City walls, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. Finally after 18 years of waiting, I finally got to have my Lizzie McGuire moment. Sadly, after throwing my coin into the fountain there was no Paulo telling me I had a doppelganger. As we sat at the Trevi Fountain, I got myself some gelato (where my friends started timing on how quickly I ate it- my record was 3 minutes) and we cheered with a nice, cold bottle of Lemoncello. Towards the end of our journey, we traveled to find dinner. A key thing to note if you visit, make sure to not go into the places were they harassing you to come in. That just means their food isn't worth it. We ended up in a small, family owned restaurant. We were slightly nervous at first because we were the only ones there until a few locals showed up. That's when we knew we made the right choice. I ordered Gnocchi with mussels and might I say it was one of the best meals I had on the trip.
Rome was a city that I wish we had one more day in. My friends and I jammed in everything we could to get the true Rome experience. As we woke up the next morning, still buzzing from our adventure the day before, it was time for the next city.... Florence.
Where to even begin on about the city of Florence. We got in a little late into the city, so we took that first evening to explore the area around us. The following day is where the true adventure started. We had an early appointment to climb 463 steps to reach the top of the Florence's Duamo. It was smart to climb the stairs in the morning because it wasn't as hot and we didn't have to deal with many people. The view was worth it! As you make it to the top, you can walk around the entire outside and see all of Florence. As I looked out into the Italian City, I had no clue how far we would be walking that day.
After walking over many bridges, we made it to the other side of Florence. There we found gorgeous views as well and a hidden rose garden. I'm that cliché girl who loves roses, orange ones to be in fact. Sadly, I didn't find any orange roses, but I did find some gorgeous pink ones and a pond filled with koi fish. Definitely a beautiful places for a picnic. For lunch, we found a sandwich place that became a tourism beacon in Florence. To the point now that they have three stores in one location to help with the lines.This place is called Osteria All'antico Vinaio. Fresh meat and cheese served on fresh bread every day. Definitely worth the wait.
During the afternoon, we made out way to the leather markets. A place where people harass you to buy buy buy. I decided to go into the stores instead to find great deals on a leather purse. The store I bought from was a family business, who made leather everything for generations. As the night progressed, a few of my friends and I made our way to a bar called the Friends Bar, where we discovered Duck Fart shots. Yes, you heard me right, Duck Fart shots. The ingredients: 1/2 oz. Kahlua, 1/2 oz. Bailey's Irish Cream, 1/2 oz. Whiskey. Very smooth to take down and best shared with friends.
Our last day in Florence actually took us to Tuscany for a wine tour. We traveled on a tour bus to the green hills filled with wineries. Our first wine tour not only served us wine, but we got olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette and truffle oil. The wine they make has now become my most favorite wine, but that truffle oil was just mouth watering. I wanted to take bottles home with me! We also stopped at an old castle to do a little bit of shopping and of course grab some gelato. The next winery we traveled to only made red wine (and you should of heard a group of girls sigh. Heartbroken that they didn't have white). As we sat underneath a tent outside to enjoy our tasting, it started pouring. The rain lasted for a good 20-30 minutes, but once done the views on the countryside were stunning with Bambi running around in the roaring hills. Florence was truly the queen of Italy. Now on to Venice- the last stop on our European adventure.
It's been said that in a certain amount of years, Venice will be underwater. I didn't believe it at first, but once seeing the water rise at night my opinion changed. We had three days in Venice, but we stayed in a town outside of Venice called Spinea. Our Airbnb was condo/house. We had two floors, a kitchen, 2 baths and a washer/dryer. Probably one of the nicest Airbnbs on our trip.
Our first day in the city consisted of rain and more rain. We took a quick 15 minute train ride to get into the city. We decided we would get water taxi tickets for one day so we could go to the islands of Murano and Burano. If I remember correctly, Murano is known for glass work. I bought myself a small glass bowel from one of the stores. Burano is known for lace and colorful buildings. For lunch, we found a place that didn't have a cover charge, which is rare to find in Europe. I got bruschetta that was about the size of my head. It was probably the best bruschetta I've ever had. With fresh tomato, bacon and bread, I was very content with my lunch choice. As we arrived back from the islands, we took shelter for dinner and then made our way back to the trains.
Our last day of our European adventure was a gorgeous one. We explored the city of Venice that was all in within walking distance. In Venice, there are no cars, only boat taxis or a gonadal. The sun was shining and I would say the last day was more about exploring and trying different drinks wherever we went. As I said in my previous Europe posts, my friends and I did pretty well just walking ourselves around without a map. We found this cute meat and drink store. I got a small wine tasting. I got to try a white, a rose and a red. All three were amazing and we just sat outside the store by the water. Very European to say the least.
Towards the end of our day, we completed with some last minute shopping and we found a bar right near the water. The bar closes early just because of flooding. You can see in my last picture how high the water was. As we were making our way back to the condo, a huge rain storm started. We decided we would get pizza for dinner since there seemed to be a close pizza spot near the train station. To say we were socked was an understatement. We had three people with umbrellas trying to walk and protect the pizza. In the end, the pizza was safe. Mission accomplish, but our clothes needed to go through the dryer a few times. Venice was a beauty to say the least! I just hope it's still there in the next few year.
As we ended every destination, my friends and I would go around the table with their highs and lows of each city. I'm about to give you my high and low for my entire European adventure.
High: Being in these unique cities and learning the history with a great group of friends. I couldn't ask for anything more.
Lows: The weather was a bit disappointing, but we didn't let that ruin our adventure. I'm ready for the next adventure that awaits.
Addio! Until next time Italia!