Italy Slideshow

Here are our Italy pics in an easy-to-view format (I know the link to the photobucket album is all out of order and stuff…) It follows our journey through Florence, Venice, and finally Rome. Enjoy 🙂

*sniff sniff* Last Day in Rome


Today was St. Peter’s Day! We visited the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basillica and it was phenomenal. Again, we had a gorgeous day to walk around and take it all in. I had such good intentions of getting up early and running this morning before breakfast, but knowing we’d have to walk the whole way across the city to the Vatican and also the creaking my knees did when I got out of bed this morning told me it was not to be. Eh well… Good call Jamie on packing the Alieve!

So, we started out kind of wandering in the general direction of the Vatican. It was far, and it took us about an hour to get there.
On the walk over… St. Peter’s and the Tiber River.

We stood in awe of St. Peter’s Square for a while and tried to figure out the weird lines. They don’t let you book tickets ahead of time so you have to sometimes stand in super long lines that last up to 3 hours or so.


We’d heard if you enter the museum around 1 you don’t usually have to wait in any lines (which was sooo true, but I’ll get to that then…) We started with St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world (which is free to enter and gawk at) It was amazing.


Impressive… and we loved the marble everywhere in Italy, though St Pete’s takes the cake.


Stained glass window and ridiculous gold adornment – at the very back of the church. The dove is 7 ft tall…wow.

It’s built overtop of the remains of Peter, who was the first Pope, appointed by Jesus. Michelangelo did some work on it and it is literally stuffed full of beautiful marble, statues, frescoes and TOURISTS! 🙂 Despite its size, it seems small and cozy, because they’ve built it to feel small and intimate. For instance, the main altar is covered with a little thinger (I don’t know what it’d be called.) It’s 7 stories tall. I can’t fathom this fact from looking at it – it seemed no taller than like 25 feet.

Again, the Rick Steve’s audio tour was totally helpful. We also saw the statue of St. Peter, one of the few remaining original statues from “Old St Peter’s” church (which “new” and gigantic St. Peter’s was built overtop of.) All of the paintings are actually tiles because you can see the designs better that way.

Michelangelo’s Pieta – which means Pity, shows Mary holding Jesus off the cross and is really famous (behind bullet proof glass, and with a ton of ppl hording around it, that’s how you know!) It was really beautiful and moving…

After standing in awe of the Basillica for a while, we headed back out to the Square to eat our lunch (obv mozzarella and tomato sammies) and learn more about the square itself.


Then we hit the Vatican Museum at 1pm, and…NO line! It was fabulous, esp bc it was about a 15 min walk from the square and it apparently extends the *whole way* some days. No thank you!

The Museum was overwhelming, and part of me still wishes we’d either bought the audio guide or done a guided tour bc there’s *so much* stuff that it’s impossible not to miss something important. Eh well, it was still very impressive and interesting. Lots of statues (with the important parts covered w/ fig leaves, bc of one pope somewhere along the way being offended by Rennaisance um…exposure.)

The best part in our opinion, and the part that was worth the $$ to enter the museum was the Sistine Chapel. It was absolutely as good as you think it’d be. It took him 4 years to paint the ceiling, and he did it on scaffolding *standing* and looking up. After doing that for a half hour to appreciate the Chapel, I can see what a toll that’d take on you…Though you weren’t supposed to take pics, we sure did!!


We leisurely strolled back to Rome and to kill time before meeting Amy and Chad for dinner, we grabbed a bottle of wine and hung out by the Pantheon. So cool!

We met Chad & Amy by the Trevi Fountain (with tons of ppl, shocking) and threw our penny in so that we’d one day return to Rome.

IDK what’s up w/ my face…


And…Scott had to “hike” it football style, I think it was the wine talking though!

We grabbed dinner at this place called Profano e Sacro (like profane and sacred) which was in an old church – it was a really neat ambiance and fun to “double date” in Italy! The food was very different from the other places we’d eaten (unforch no Caprese salad..)


Then…gelato! Duh.

We ended up sharing a taxi with them to the airport the following morning as well. Though, that’s a story for another day!!

(sigh) We had such a fabulous trip, we so did not want to leave. There is so much to see and do in Rome and I feel like we could have used another 3 days. And we most definitely want to return and do the southern part of the country like Napoli, Capri and the Amalfi Coast, etc. It’s such a beautiful and fun country to visit.

Pantheon et al

(Scott named this one. I take no credit.)

So much walking today! We did the walking tour I ripped out of the Let’s Go guide (well, like 1/2 of it bc we had already done some of it yesterday.) We started off with a trip to the underground grocery store and the underground walkway that cuts through the Borghese Gardens and shoots you at at the Spanish Steps! Cool! It was def shorter and less hilly, but a lot less scenic…

At the Spanish Steps, there are all these gypsy guys who try to sell you jewelry, fake purses and sunglasses and hand the women roses and make the guys pay for them. So irritating! 🙂 But, this morning I couldn’t locate my sunglasses so I had to bargain w/ him. I don’t love them, but you know, they helped me not squint all day.

This picture is dedicated to Kelly Fuddy – buongiorno principessa!: (See, you can totally get by with Italian you learn in Vita e Bella!)

To start off our tour, we walked up on a street high above the city and ended up at Piazza del Poppolo. It was really a great view of the city. The Piazza was quite big, and really stunning.


From there, we went down the road a little to the Pantheon! It was soo cool! Its design was so innovative it inspired St Peter’s Basillica, The Duomo (in Florence) and even the US Capitol building. Until 1960 it was the largest dome in the world… and it’s mathematically cool bc it’s as wide as it is tall so there’s a balance to it. This is why Scott thinks it’s cool. Raphael is buried there, as are 2 former rulers. They still have church services there and ppl get married there too. Oh, and it has an oculus – an open air circular opening at the very top of the dome.



The bottom of the dome is made of concrete 20 feet thick – and it gets thinner as you near the top. Here you can see the ornate marble designs, concrete w/ the squares cut out, and just a little of the light coming in the open top.

We had a delicious lunch at a place close to the Pantheon called Miscellania. It was a fantastic pizza, and they gave us a free glass of strawberry wine after the meal. And it was yummy. Everything is yummy here, pretty much, I should stop saying that.

To complete our walking tour we saw the Piazza Navonna and I almost started crying (well, that’s a little overstated, but still) bc the Four Rivers fountain was under scaffolding. Screw scaffolding. I was so excited to see this statue & fountain and it’s pretty much obstructing all other views of the Piazza. We tried to cut it out of the pics… PN was pretty neat otherwise – lots of very talented artists selling stuff and weird ppl painted up and acting like statues. Sorry, I don’t give folks like that money.

We also went to Campo di Fiori which was supposed to be neat but Scott and I just looked at it and said…eh. It felt very dirty and overly smokey (which is saying a lot bc seriously, everyone smokes here.)

Then walked back to hotel to put our feet up and relax until dinnertime. We’re trying to find a restaurant and it looks like lots of stuff is closed on Sundays. Boohiss!


So, we were totally beat tonight, but made ourselves go out on the town for dinner. We went out to the Trevi Fountain area and decided to do what we did last night, kinda/sorta look for some of the recommended restaurants in the Rick Steves guide, and a lot of times, the streets those places are on will have a bunch of places and we can look at menus & stuff. So we did… we made it down to the Pantheon before something caught our eye and we ended up at a place called L’Arcana. It was really good! They had some space heaters so we could comfortably eat outside and the food was amazing.

Scott had gnocchi, his fave:

And I had cannoli for the first course (firsties, as Scott likes to call it) and roasted chicken for secondi (the Italians really call the second course that…) Now, I don’t think I’ve ever raved about meat. I mean I eat it bc I know my body needs it but I can’t honestly remember ever talking so much about meat I ate. But this chicken was the best ever. The meat fell right off the bone. So flavorful and tender too… I didn’t know it could be this good!

Oh, and you’ll never guess who we saw on the street next to our hotel on our walk to dinner… Amy and Chad! It was such a crazy coincidence. They were just arriving from the train. Small world – in a town of millions of people we randomly meet up on the street with a homey. 🙂

Trevi – night vish:

When in Rome…

Veronica: “Oh, well, when in Rome.”
Ron:
“Yes? Please go on.”
Veronica:
“Uh, do as the Romans do? It’s an old expression.”
Ron:
“Oh! I’ve never heard of it.”
Veronica:
“Oh.”
Ron:
“It’s wonderful, though.”

So…you get the gist of me & Scott’s convos for the day! 😉 Ron Burgundy really has an influence on our lives.

Well, we started out very early this morning, at the train station. So yeah, it was rough. We did really well again with finding our hotel walking from the station. We’re now masters of finding stuff in Italy, we need a new challenge. Pssshaw. Hotel Golden is fabulous! We got here super early so the front desk guy was not really ready for us, but he was so nice and gave us breakfast and let us leave our bags and helped us out a ton.

First stop? Duh, Il Colleseo! We even watched Gladiator to prep for it before we left, even though I got bored halfway through bc there was too much killing and stuff. The real thing was awesome! We especially enjoyed the RS audio guide (obvs) and the enormity of it. The structure was so impressive – it took them years and years to build and it was BC then too! And over the years after it ceased to be used to have slaves and prisoners fight to the death, people used to come and pilfer some of the stones so there’s big holes in the structure.

As you can see…we started out thinking – oh crap, another cloudy and possibly rainy day and ended up w/ a gorgeous blue sky. Who knew!

We stopped at Trevi Fountain on the way too. It wasn’t as big as I though t it was going to be… I think I saw too many ppl’s pictures! 🙂


Again, they make you buy a dual ticket w/ the Colleseum for that and Pallantine Hill. It was kinda of booooring, in our opinion. The Roman Forum was so much cooler, we were totally enthralled by it! 🙂 It was just so freaking cool to walk throughout the remains of one of the greatest civilizations … The Roman Empire was big from 500 BC to 500 AD… the “piazza” or square set up of towns & cities originated in this very place. And Julius Cesar was killed here – like you know, “et tu Brutus!?” Yeah, him! Crazy!

The remains of a HUGE church – this was just the one side. It was really freaking big.
The Arch of Settimo Severo in the Roman Forum.


Check out the water fountain! Do as the Romans do…even if it seems like it’s weird. The water was delicious though.

After doing all the ruins and stuff we were pretty beat and decided we needed…um, showers. We hightailed it back to the hotel and recooperated a little, which made all the difference. For dinner, we went on a leisurely walk to the Spanish Steps, which were cool, but the main tower thing is in scaffolding, which stinks. It seems like a part of all of the big sights we want to see has scaffolding on it!! Ok, enough whining. On to the wine.

For dinner, we had FABULOUS food. It was a wine bar in the Spanish Steps neighborhood and O.M.G it was fantastic. MMMMmmm. I had Ricotta and Spinach Crepes followed by Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese salad. And wine. Scott hit up some gnocchi and veal and was also pretty satisfied. It was an adorable authentic Italian place and I’d eat there everyday if I could.

We’re trying to figure out the climate here… it’s not humid like it was in Florence… and it’ll go from being almost HOT (we got sunburn on our faces a little today!) to chilly if you’re in the shade. Weird. Rome is a lot different too, it’s definitely a much bigger and more bustling city than the other two we’ve visited so far. It’s so exciting to see the actual pieces of history and all of these famous sights right here in Rome we will get to visit! Tomorrow we’re doing a walking tour (self guided, thanks to Let’s Go Western Europe 2002! I ripped out the pages w/ the walking tour, I’m so bad…) and we’ll get to see some parts of the city we didn’t get to today. I might also attempt a run in the Borghese Gardens too (like Central Park kinda…)

Venizia

After falling asleep while Scott watched Wedding Crashers in Italian, I somehow woke up rejuvinated and ready to go see Venice. With my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t downpour all day. The sky wasn’t looking good though, which kinda bummed us out too bc a sunny, blue sky is the most magnificent backdrop to see cities …and also to get killer pictures!

First thing, we went out to St. Mark’s square and did the Rick Steve’s audio guide. Very cool, we learned a lot. For instance, each of the 3 sides of the square were built in a different century and therefore a different style. Napolean did the middle one linking the two.

Um, so St. Mark’s is pigeon city. Which is disgusting. Scott and I have never had any tolerance for pigeons…they’re like flying rats. We were continually surprised and amazed at the amount of folks that not only seemed to think feeding them and having the pigeons *on them* was ok, but also to subject their children to this. BARF!


So, to enter Doge’s Palace, which we were really excited about, they make you buy a dual ticket for that and the Correr Museum. Well, part of me wishes we could have totally just not done the museum, we were just not in the mood. There were a few nice sculptures in the beginning and a very good cup of cappuccino at the end, but the whole middle was Bor-Ring. That’s Jamie Steve’s rec – skip it.

We also went into St. Mark’s Basillica. It’s a very different church bc it is really eclectic in its influences. It has Islamic & Middle Eastern elements, Turkis & Byzantine elements and Greek stuff to it. It’s very different. But oh-so-lovely. 🙂 Here’s a night-vish shot.


Inside was great – all different types of marble in and outside from all of the places the Venetian empire had conquered. The artwork on the ceiling was all mosaic and very ornate and gold encrusted. There was a bejeweled altarpiece that had an insane amount of big rubies and sapphires, etc and…GOLD obvs. Very cool! They like to show off, those Venetians.

We really enjoyed St Mark’s Square. There were a lot of overpriced cafes on the perimeter that had orchestras playing and stuff, very romantic and charming.

Lunch was yummy! We followed a suggestion from Rick, and again, he delivers! Scott and I love some tomato & mozzarella sandwiches!

In the afternoon we walked around a lot. We had much more success navigating the city by just kind of lazily floating along the roads and following the random signs sporadically placed throughout saying “San Marco –>” or “Rialto <–". We found the Friari Church pretty easily, given how difficult it was the night before. Friari Church was pretty cool too! Then the real miracle happened…the SUN came out! For like 20 min! We managed to get up on the Rialto bridge during it too, which is one of the few bridges that runs across the Grand Canal. It was so pretty… We then hit the Doge’s Palace, which was traditionally where the Doge or Mayor of Venice lived. It was ornate and old, filled w/ riches and paintings. 🙂

And it connects to the prison and has the Bridge of Sighs in btwn.


We were getting tired, but this day had the new challenge for us of no option of going back to our room to rejuvinate and rest. We HAD to stay out on the town. So, we found a little trattoria and got a bottle of cabernet and got to work. After a nice dinner and another bottle of wine, we were ready to head to the train station.

We had originally said we’d walk again, but for some reason we weren’t quite feeling like it and thought – let’s do the vaporettos! 🙂 We’re so glad we did – Venice is a totally different city from the water and by being cheapies, we totally missed it! And the best part is bc the ticket machine was broken when we went to buy our tickets, it was a free ride. We met a Canadian grad student who studied in Venice for a semester and his mom, and had some lively conversation on the way to the train station too. Very enjoyable!

Overall, Venice was lovely. It’s really hard to compare it to anything because it’s totally its own. No bikes, mopeds or cars…just walking. The churches and big buildings were built on millions (yes millions) of trees made into pilings…and the fact that the city is still here at all is kind of a miracle. Exploring it was so much fun, like looking at a decaying iconic city up close.

Oh, and I know you’re wondering, here’s where we slept – on the train to Roma overnight!

Day 5 – Bye Bye Florence, Hello Venice

So, this morning I did a farewell run in Florence. It was so much nicer than when I went in the afternoon the other day. The streets were totally empty except for the city buses and some bikers. Not overrun w/ tourists so that was a big plus. And I got to see all the sights I’ve come to love one last time. It was lovely.

Scott had his presentation this morning and I snuck into the conference to watch. He did a really good job! We made some plans with Amy O and her boyfriend – we’re meeting for dinner in Rome by the Trevi Fountain. I feel so grand saying that!

We left for Venice shortly after that. The train ride was pretty uneventful and we got to see a little bit more of the Tuscan countryside which was right out of a postcard. Absolutely lovely. The clouds got a little thicker when we started to near Venice, and I’m sad to say…we got rained on. With our backpacks. (sigh) On the train we discovered that the transportation I’d assumed we would take – a water bus or vaporetto – is wicked expensive. Way to read the fine print, Jamie! It would be 12 euro for us. So we decided to walk, being the adventurous young people that we are.

Let me start off by saying Venice is WEIRD! It’s gorgeous and really breathtaking, but it’s so weird! No cars are allowed on the island, which is actually a big relief since the driving was kind of erratic and worrisome in Florence. Many times Scott and I said to each other “I don’t know why anyone would want to rent a car in Italy…” Anyway, we had a map of the streets and half followed that and half followed internal compasses and instincts. We had to pay .50 cents to cross the Grand Canal on a service gondola, which was really interesting…

Then…it started raining. Like really steadily raining on us. It was not as good as it could be. We were alright. The streets are pretty much sidewalk sized, so when they’re packed w/ tourists and everyone whips out the umbrellas it gets very annoying to walk (or maybe the annoying thing was that we were soaked and carrying 40lb backpacks? IDK) By some dumb luck right when we were totally convinced we had taken the wrong street, out of the corner of my eye I look down an alley and there is our hotel. It was amazing! See…how did we not see this?? 😉

The hotel is cute – The Locanda al Leon! Our room is very comfortable and we were just thankful to take off our wet shoes and get some dry clothes on. It looks as if it might have let up raining a little so we’ll venture out for some gelato and sightseeing in a little I think!

So, I’m trying very hard to give Venice a fair shot – the rain is the real issue at this point but like always, we’ll make it work and motor through!

n

(after walking around for dinner & dessert)…so, whoever designed this city was messed up. It’s really hard to find the thing you’re looking for. And by hard I mean like impossible. We wrestled with trying to find a few restaurants in the Rialto Bridge area that were in the guide books…yeah, we looked for like 1 hour and said screw it. A lesson we learned today, don’t put off getting food. It’s better to snack now and be in good spirits than to hold out and be hungry and crabby. We ended up getting pizza at some place where a bunch of non-Italians were working. Eh well, it was good and to our hungry,wet and weary selves, it was great!

We found our way back to Piazza San Marco and it luckily stopped raining after dinner. It was fabulous in the evening all lit up! Scott took some great night-vision (or night-vish, as I say) shots which capture the essence!

St. Mark’s Square!

To end the night, we stopped by this wonderful little pastry shop by our hotel and got a bottle of Cabernet (we’re not in Tuscany anymore, Toto.) and 2 yummy biscuit chocolate things. Yuuummmm! Buona notte!

Day 4 – Jamie & Scott Day

Posted from Rome – courtesy of Hotel Golden’s very impressivo internet connection 🙂

Today, Scott totally ditched the conference. It was fun – we had the whole day to sightsee together and walk around, a little preview for what the rest of the trip will be like. We started off with the Uffizi Gallery, which is widely reputed as one of the best art galleries in the world (and if you don’t believe me, ask the hundreds of ppl who were in line who didn’t book a ticket online like we did!) Once again, we listened to the Rick Steve’s mp3 audio guide on our iPods and learned a lot and saw the important things. (These audio guides are new this year, and he has them out for Italy and Paris, I highly recommend them if you’re traveling there. We’re totally psyched that we downloaded them for a bunch of sights in Venice and Rome for later on in our trip. They’re free too, another fave of ours.)

We learned a lot about Renaissance art as compared to that of the Middle Ages. It’s a lot different – 3-dimensional, lifelike and not embossed in gold all the time. The MA was lame! 😉 My favorite was Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (where she’s standing in a ½ clam shell). It’s so beautiful. Scott’s favorite was one by da Vinci where it depicts the angel telling Mary she’s about to have a baby. He liked it bc you can see how LDV used math and lines and angles to make the painting balanced and easy to look at. Even though he was primarily an engineer and a thinker, he painted “on the side”. And he was really good too… It was especially nice to see the Renaissance art as coming out of the Middle Ages art – much more “enlightened”.

Oh, funny story. I was telling Scott about how there were was this room at L’Accademia gallery where it was all these busts – like 100’s of them and it was neat and he looks at me and is like…”you mean…boobs?” Hahaha, no sweetie, though that would be awesome too I guess. I just had to laugh. In his defense, there are a lot of naked statues in Florence. A lot.

After about 2 hours in the gallery we headed outside. Again today it was overcast and not sunny & gorgeous. Don’t they know we’re on our vacation??! We headed to see the inside of the Duomo together. We then had a quick lunch in the café that’s attached to our hotel and regrouped a little. That’s something that’s a little surprising and challenging with this trip… I forgot how Euro-tripping tires you out so much! All the walking and taking in ridiculously old art really wears on you (I know, don’t you feel sorry for me??), and we’re trying to space it all out enough to still be in decent moods and be excited about what we’re seeing and do enough to feel like we’re not wasting our trip over here.

We walked around the market area a little today too. It’s nice here – lots of ppl have little stands with local goods – leather, cashmere and t-shirts, etc but I must say, they don’t pressure you and stuff (ahem, take notes, Mexico). Though multiple guys at leather stands have said to Scott “You come here, I have your size.” LOL… I purchased a cashmere scarf and a pashmina and I’m in LOVE with them already. So super soft and really, ridiculously cheap even with the sad euro/dollar exchange rate.

This afternoon, we hiked up to Piazzale Michelangelo together. We almost didn’t do it bc the day was so nasty and cloudy, and we were like “the pictures are gonna be lame”. Then we wisely decided we’re not doing stuff on the vacation to take the picture and go home, we’re doing it to DO IT! To see it and take it all in, etc. So we went. Andiamo! And it was fabulous, though not quite as lovely as the first day when I ran up to the same lookout and it was sunny and warm. Eh well.

We just got done with our cheap dinner at the hotel bar. They have “Happy Hours” from 5-8 where you get a glass of wine and a buffet of TONS of pizza and pasta. So we just loaded up and called it dinner and 2 glasses of wine! Works for me! I helped Scott hone his presentation and his 30-second “schpeal” for the first session preview of all the day’s talks where everyone gets to present a preview of his or her presentation in 30 seconds. It’s probably about as nerdy as it sounds…

Tomorrow we leave for Venice via the train! Scott has his presentation tomorrow morning before we go and I’m gonna be in the cheering section. Tonight we’re preparing for that and re-rolling our clothes and packing them up in our packs. Fun stuff. We’ll hit the road (er…tracks) around lunchtime after Scott’s talk and hopefully get to do a little sightseeing and walking around in Venice. I’ve been posting blog entries from the conference building where we have access to free wireless, and we’re not sure what we’ll have access to in Venice and Rome (Saturday – Tuesday).