North America, Europe · 9 Days · 51 Moments · September 2017

Elliot & Concetta's Grand Italian Adventure


1 October 2017

And so it ends...on the plane back to the states. The last 10 days have been incredible. The best trip, the most amazing sights and truly the best companion. We laughed our way through Italy, ate some amazing food, drank a bit of vino (ok, more than a bit), experienced some of the most humbling sights in the world and created memories that will last a lifetime. Viva Italia! Ciao!

30 September 2017

Last full day in Italy. No cameras today, just wandered through the city together for hours taking it all in one last time and reflecting on a truly amazing trip. Mostly took the back streets (Elliot being a human GPS that can navigate us through any city without a map is more than a little convenient) avoiding the crazy Saturday crowds and getting a bit of the Neighborhood feel. Made sure we got our last pizza, pasta and Gelato in before heading back in the morning.

29 September 2017

The walk home after dinner. Rome was not our favorite city, but the area around the colosseum at night was truly beautiful. As you're walking along a six way highway, you happen across ancient (actually ancient) ruins or a beautiful palace against the night sky. There are far worse ways to spend an evening walk.
After another long day of walking (we will be driving EVERYWHERE when we get home to recover), it was off to dinner. One of the best meals we've had thus far, especially the dessert. Their Gelato was homemade and the tiramisu was so so so good. An empty wine glass, forgot to take a picture of the 2 full ones that came before the empty πŸ˜‚ Also pictured, a couple of adorable cars parked outside the restaurant.
Turns out I booked a 3 hour tour that started at the colosseum, then made its way through ancient ruins to the top of Palatine Hill and down through the Roman Forum. A nice surprise from a sight seeing aspect, a little less exciting from an 'our legs might actually fall off this trip' aspect πŸ˜‚. The ruins date back 2500+ years which is mind blowing and the view of Rome from the top of the hill was beautiful.
Next up was the colosseum tour. Our tour guide was awesome and we won the tour group lottery giving us the opportunity to go in to the actual arena where the gladiators walked in. Only a few groups are allowed in on that level each day. The entire colosseum is magnificent. The architecture, the history and the sheer size made this a favorite experience in Rome.
Today started with the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. The museum was insanely crowded and while it was nice to get all of the information that was provided with the guided tour, we felt really rushed and didn't really get the opportunity to take it all in. The museum has an incredible collection of centuries of beautiful art but comes with areas that are so jam packed you can barely breath. This was nothing compared to the Sistine Chapel. The chapel is smaller than I imagined it would be, but the paintings are extraordinary. We had the unfortunate luck to try to exit as the pope was making his way through the building so they closed the door and we were essentially stuck as more and more people filed in. The doors mercifully opened just as I was at full panic, bless Elliot for talking me through it. The Basilica was unbelievable. You literally lose a moments breath when you step inside. The beauty, the history and the significance is nearly overwhelming.

28 September 2017

Many of the same sights, but this time lit up and often with a beautiful half moon on the background. Rome comes alive at night. The crowds disperse a bit and your able to just take in some of the beauty without the craziness of the daytime. The crowds here can be a bit New York ate L.A. during the day..once the sun goes down it's a bit more manageable. The Vatican lit up at night is incredible. Our tour is tomorrow; we can't wait! Said tour is incredibly early, so ciao for now πŸ˜‰
Last on our walking tour was Villa Borghese, the Roman version of Central Park. A very similar experience, in the middle of a bustling and crazy city, was a quiet escape. You could see the outside world from some places, but it was a completely different atmosphere. We rented an Elliot powered cart, aka a dual person bike where I couldn't reach the pedals πŸ˜‚. Several spins around the park and a whole lot of laughter later, we returned the cart and started our way back to the hotel. Lots of things are important in life...finding someone you can laugh with? Pretty close to the top of that list ❀️
Some more beautiful architecture along our walk and then our arrival at the Spanish Steps. After the Duomo, we stared at them for a while before making our way to the top. After several hundred flights of stairs recorded on this trip, don't judge πŸ˜‰ Elliot bought me 3 beautiful roses at the top before we headed off to the Villa Borghese.
Some beautiful sights on the way to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain...and then the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain themselves. Oh, and my incredibly handsome date at lunch πŸ˜‰ Chatted with the couple at the table next to us; turned out they were from Nanaimo (close-ish to Chilliwack - where Elliot is from originally for those that don't know). The world is truly a small place. Delicious lunch, amazing company, new 'lunch friends' and then back off to our Grand Adventure.
Today's Gelato selection (there's no bad choice here) and a shout out to Fanta. We've been transported to the 80's and have been re-experiencing the joys (and the why) that is Fanta.
Entering Vatican City, adding another country to our list! St Peters Square and the Vatican, absolutely gorgeous. The beginning of our walking tours for today before heading over the bridge on our way to the Pantheon. Rome is a strange (and unbelievably dirty) place. You are surrounded by an amazing history...but it's so commercialized it's tough to be awestruck in the same way we were in the other legs of the trip, but there have been a few moments that still made us catch our breath.
Our arrival into Rome and into the never ending taxi line. Not much sleep on the train, but another 27k+ step day in the books. A beautiful fountain on the way to our hotel; they are everywhere throughout the city. A modern(ish) hotel here just a few blocks from the Vatican. 2 floors and finally a normal shower (the showers thus far have been handheld or for people even shorter than me!)
On the train and off to Rome. Hoping to catch some zzzz's on the way. We've powered through thus far, but between the jet lag and our packed itinerary, we're both pretty tired this morning.

27 September 2017

Also up today, the Accademia and the Statute of David. Wandered through and looked various art and plaster molds later used to create marble statues. Didn't spend a ton of time here, checking off David from our bucket list was the main goal. Mission complete βœ…
Just some more of the Duomo...it really was magnificent.
Hundreds of stairs later, we can say we climbed the Duomo. So glad we did the tour. We got access to a private terrace and the guide was awesome in giving us the history of the church and the city. The church itself was gorgeous and the views, as continues to be the case, were breath taking. You can see the entire city all around you and thinking about the history of it all is quite an experience. The architecture was amazing and to think it's been there for over 500 years, how much the city has changed around it, again, just awe inspiring. I really need a thesaurus πŸ˜‰
This one is for Larissa. Repping Florence in Florence. Roar lions roar!

26 September 2017

Last stop of the day (not including the car drop off and cab ride back to the hotel which were adventures all unto themselves, trust me) was San Gimignano, aka the unpronounceable city. This is an old fortress town. No cars are allowed, so you find a parking spot as close to the top as you can (we weren't at the bottom, but earned quite a few more flights of stairs on my Fitbit). When you enter, you can just imagine thousands of years ago (3rd century BC to be exact) when it was truly a fortress built to keep a city of people safe from the outside world. We walked through the square as the church bells rang for the half hour while taking in the sites before heading to dinner overlooking the valley below. Today was a comedy of errors with a whole lot of laughter as they happened. It's a lucky thing to find someone that you can laugh with no matter how imperfect your day. As promised, a sneak peek for anyone paying attention to the best part of today. ❀️
After a long, uphill walk away from Manarola, it was off to San Gimignano via the Tuscan Valley. Not a ton of pics and no justice is done by those included. If you find yourself making this drive, plan to pull over a lot so the driver doesn't kill you as you keep saying, Holy Crap, and Oh My God, every 5 minutes when a new hill rolls into view. As we've made our way through Italy, we have wondered how many of those who live here still find the wonder in what they see...and I pray that it's all of them. The houses nestled in the hills of Tuscany are blessed with a reminder of how small we truly are everyday and what a sad thing to forget.
It was really hard to only pick 10 pictures of Manarola. I need a thesaurus at some point because all of Italy had been amazing, breath taking, awe inspiring and beautiful...and Manarola is no exception. The Mediterranean is so blue and clear...it's so peaceful even with a hundred tourists milling about...it would be an easy place to find a spot and watch the sea for hours without ever finding yourself bored. I can now officially say I've stepped into the Mediterranean Sea...and holy crap was it cold! But truly incredible. The weather was perfect, the view was indescribable. All I can say is if your looking to experience majesty, add this stop on your travel itinerary.
Sometimes a wrong turn...ok 4 wrong turns...isn't the worst thing that can happen in your day. These beautiful views were a happy outcome to all those wrong guesses on what the blue dot was telling us to do. Lunch overlooking the Mediterranean, a glass of wine and divine company...there are worse ways to get lost πŸ™‚
After Pisa, who is apparently sponsored by IKEA, it was off to Manarola with an incredible view along the way.
As promised, the standard tourist pics and a few #amidoingthisright from Elliot.
Today was day trip day. We rented a car and headed out to see the world...or at least a few more of Italy's most famous cities. Few things we learned today boys and girls: 1) if you're looking for adventure, go to a foreign country full of terrible drivers and rent a car and 2) never ask me to navigate...while it turned out great and we had some fantastic extra views, it was a good thing we weren't in a hurry! First we hit up Pisa for the standard Leaning Tower pics, and a few hilarious outtakes thanks to Elliot. At times it was hard to stop laughing long enough to snap the pic. In and out of Pisa in 5 minutes, literally πŸ˜‚ Then we eventually made our way to Manarola with the most fantastic detours thanks to yours truly's complete inability to use google maps, then off to San Gimignano for dinner and the best possible end to a day. Tons of pics to follow and a sneak peek surprise for those paying attention πŸ’•

25 September 2017

It's not possible to adequately describe watching the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo. All I can say is when your writing your bucket list, make sure this is on it. Make the trek up and stand at the top with the person you love and watch the day end over Florence. Take a few amazing pictures, but mostly just stand on the bridge and watch the sky change, watch the city begin to light up and just breathe.
Once across the bridge we stopped in our first church. The churches here are incredible. We made our way up front to get a better look just in time for mass to start..so we hightailed it out which a few patrons found quite amusing. We made our way to Michelangelo up hill both ways which made for quite the trek...but the views along the way and especially once we got there were more than worth it.
Today was the Oltrarno and Piazzale Michelangelo walking tours, but went through downtown on our way so a quick glimpse of the Duomo and the center of downtown. More of that on day 3 πŸ™‚ We headed over the bridge and stopped to take in the view on the way.
On our walk through the neighborhood, we found a local deli eatery and stopped in for lunch. I had wine, lol, and Elliot had a pasta and encountered our first language barrier issue. He ordered a latte and found himself with a cup of steamed milk. Good for a lot of laughs for us. Our room wasn't quite ready so we stopped at the bar in our hotel and listened to some music (American rock lol) before heading on up to get settled (and nap!!)
Our room here is incredible. Bathroom has a jet tub I will be soaking in forever after our 27000 steps today! So glad tomorrow is a car day! We have a terrace to take our coffee outside and it's located in the midst of the actual city but a quick walk to the tourist areas. While waiting for our room, we walked through the residential portion of the city and took in a day in the life.
A few pics of the Italian countryside as it whizzed by on the high speed train. Hard to capture anything at 300 kilometers per hour! Train ride was great. Much smoother than crappy Chicago transit lol The countryside is gorgeous and first class was a great call. Quiet cabin, spacious seats and breakfast. What more could you ask for?
And we're off. Venice was beautiful and a truly incredible experience. Grabbed the water taxi to the train station this morning (got off on the wrong stop and went to the wrong station verifying why I drink so much coffee in the morning) but was able to grab our train from that station, so no harm no foul. Just another chapter in our adventure. Now to sit back and watch the Italian countryside go by...

24 September 2017

Dinner, dessert (and wine, duh) and the best company. Last night in Venice. It's been incredible. Tomorrow we're off to Florence!
As promised (and not even the last for the day), pizza, gelato and wine....man we could get used to this! Elliot also had pasta in a box (that was his omg this is ridiculously good face πŸ˜‚)...he's right, I tried a bite and it was impressive πŸ‘πŸΌ
Also toured St. Marks Basilica and the Correr Museum. Not many pics from either; you can't take pics inside the cathedral and while they had some amazing artifacts, museum collections are generally not picture worthy. They did have some incredible coin and book collections. The basilica was truly gorgeous. We didn't take in all of it as they required payment for several areas...ah, the good ol Catholics πŸ˜‰The building in the pic is the basilica, it was truly magnificent inside and out.
There are also prisons in the palace (sorry mom, but I did warn you I might end up in Italian prison πŸ˜‰) Many of the areas were made for people my size as Elliot found out at one point when he forgot to duck as he was busily taking in the sights. He paid a bit more attention after that lol. There were some beautiful views from some of the barred windows though.
More of the gorgeous rooms in Doge's Palace.
First stop today was Doge's palace. It was magnificent. The opulence throughout was gorgeous. Beautiful marble staircases, paintings on each of the ceilings, various statues and more...
A rainy day in Venice made for an interesting time trying to navigate narrow alleys and the sea of tourists all trying to stay dry. Luckily mostly indoor sight seeing today.

23 September 2017

Day 1 ended with a bottle of wine and 2 shots of Grappa for Elliot. It was supposed to be 1 for each of us, but as they arrived he quickly remembered (and slightly regretted that it is flavored Grappa he loved and this was closer to rocket fuel). He powered through like them a champ, though. We were serenaded by a man playing sax in the square next to our outdoor seating as we talked and laughed till they closed. A perfect ending to a perfect day.
A couple pics from our serenade gondola ride at sunset. An amazing experience. Also a random pic of baby Groot who we found while waiting in line to board πŸ˜‚
Random pictures of us in various areas in Venice. Another recurring theme that will happen throughout the trip. ☺️
Wine and gelato. This will be a recurring theme throughout the whole trip.
A beautiful church we stopped in to admire while out and about. We'll be working through the museum and church "circuit" tomorrow but this random stop was breathtaking. Can't wait for tomorrow!
Random Venice from our wandering this afternoon. The tourist areas are jam packed with people, but tonight we were able to venture off the beaten path and found beautiful and quiet Venice, pics of that to come.
Proof of life, even if we don't feel alive. A bit better after a 2 hour nap. A pic of the canal while waiting for the water taxi at the airport, our room and the canal just outside our room. We're off now to eat, explore a bit and then the traditional gondola ride. The city is beautiful and amazing, can't wait to really get out tomorrow :)
Crazy crazy crazy, we're here!!! Overall a good flight. Maybe a couple hours of sleep total, but feeling decent considering. A few pics of breathtaking mountains, and Venice from above and Elliot speaking Italian..I've forbid him from actually doing that to people lol...and of course, our excited/exhausted faces upon landing. Off to figure out this whole water taxi thing!

22 September 2017

Ok...it's really happening! We're on the flight to Venice. Next stop Italia! Ciao!
Arrived safe and sound in Newark, a bit late thanks to a slight delay getting out of Chicago, but not too bad. So far zero pigeon sightings, but a small dog and screeching children have been spotted. Elliot's hard at work trying to finish up some expense reports before were off to Venice and I'm just trying to drown out the craziness around us. 20 more mins till boarding and then OFF WE GO!!!
On the first leg of the flight, off to the great tourist destination, Newark Airport. With any luck we'll see the indigenous pigeon...who am I kidding, it's Newark, we'll definitely see pigeons. Super excited to be off on this long awaited adventure!