We arrived in Italy and took the train from the airport to Rome, my favorite city on this trip. Our hotel in Rome was near the Piazza Navona, which was where we had our first taste of wonderful Italian pasta. After our driving adventures in Greece we decided that tours and trains were the better plan. Our first tour was of Vatican City and the Catacombs. Vatican City is really an amazing place as were many of the other churches we saw throughout Italy. We were taken through part of the Vatican museums and then into the Sistine Chapel. This was truly an amazing sight and one that you just have to see in person. After eating lunch we headed over to the catacombs. The catacombs were where the early Christians were buried and though the bones had been removed it was an impressive underground city.
Our second day in Rome we lucked out and had a personal tour with a fluent English speaking tour guide. He took us through the old city and showed us the history and the growth of Rome over time. It was cool to see thousands of years of history built on top of itself in layers. Next he took us to the Colosseum, one of the most famous sights in Rome. It did not disappoint and through our tour guides storytelling he was able to bring the history to life. Did you know that animals were kept under the floors and they could also clear them out to fill the area with water for naval battles? Well, you do now. It was time to head down to Naples on the Eurorail. Quickly we learned that the Europass was a terrible deal and made it very difficult to travel but we were stuck so we made the best of it. What’s another couple hundred Euros for fines and seat reservations between friends?
We arrived in Naples in the early evening and it became quickly apparent that this was not a great place to stay. Piled high with garbage with instructions to hide your valuables from pickpockets, Naples was a taxi required locale if you wanted to be safe at night. We settled in and made our way to the best pizzeria in the world. Pizzeria Brandi was where the margarita pizza was invented and they had been making it for hundreds of years. It was so good that we went back both nights in Naples and Virginia even got to take a picture in front of the famous pizza oven. Since Naples was not a good place to sight see we spent both days on tours in other cities. First, Capri, a wealthy island paradise where you can spend a night in a 2000 Euro per night hotel. Our second day we took a tour with one other couple to the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii. The Amalfi coast was beautiful and Pompeii was amazing. To see a city frozen in time is something indescribable which you just need to see for yourself.
Next stop, Florence! In Florence we realized that we were only steps away from Michelangelo’s David and we quickly bought tour tickets for the next day. We ate dinner at a cool local place and I got what was basically tripe scampi. Interesting to see tripe used in Italian cooking, it was delicious. Our hotel was no fun, they turned off the air conditioning during the day and in the middle of the night but if you opened the window you were swarmed by mosquitoes. Oh well, you can’t have all good hotels. We went to see the David and we were not disappointed, this was truly one of the world’s most beautiful pieces of art. The next day we took a trip on a bus out to Pisa to see the leaning tower. Both Virginia and I got out required “Holding up the tower” pictures but that was about it. This was a complete tourist trap but the church and tower were pretty awesome.
As we continued our train trip up to northern Italy we arrived at Venice the one city where we could not be run over by cars and mopeds. Riding through the Grand Canal was something to remember, what a fun way to live. We ate both nights at our hotel mainly because I couldn’t get enough of the squid ink pasta. Our tours in Venice took us around the city and into the church and Dogi’s palace. A nice final tour since Virginia and I were starting to get a bit worn out. Our second day in Venice we took a ride out to Moreno to get some of their famous blown glass. We found an artist who made glass in our style and bought some fun gifts for our parents and a nice piece for our house. It was also in Venice where we found a beautiful piece of art to hang on our wall.
We completed our trip with a few more days in Rome where we ate at the best spaghetti place I have ever been to and had gelato from the most famous place in Rome. A great end to an amazing trip. Our last two days were spent right by the Spanish steps and since Virginia was tired I wandered through Rome by myself for a few hours. As I had some beer while walking around and spent an hour in the Leonardo da Vinci museum I realized that I would love to live in Rome. Too bad they don’t have a target or we may have sent for our things and Bella and never came home. As we rode out to the airport to take our flights to Greece and then back to the US I reflected on our wonderful adventure, how much we saw in those seventeen days, and how much more there is left to see. Next time, Spain, Germany, and France!
Take a look at highlights from our ten days in Italy: