In June, I traveled to Italy for Sara & Ale’s wedding. I was also fortunate to have a few days before and after the nuptials to do a little exploring. My trip was part touristy and part authentic Italian experience. The days that I was with Alessandro and Sara’s families were super special. Not only did I get to hang out with great friends, but I got to really see Italian life and taste amazing home cooked meals. The days that I was on my own were great too. I enjoyed dining alone and watching the world go by. I also met some other lone travellers and we shared our stories. All in all, an amazing trip. Here is a selection of pictures from my camera and my iPhone interspersed with a few notes.
Touch down in Rome. I love traveling with only carry on. It’s magical! Touch down and out of the airport in 40 mins. I think that’s a record for me! Customs was faster than the average line for the toilet and guy hardly looked at me.
After a power nap at my B&B to shake off the red-eye flight, I took the metro to Colosseum station and started exploring. I walked and walked and walked. Walking around Rome is like walking through the world’s largest open air museum. Everywhere you turn there is some amazing sculpture or ruins. People are so friendly. I had numerous nice men stop me and offer to “show me around”. One was even an archeology student, apparently. And when it stared to rain a hoard of men selling umbrellas (in beautiful colours!) appeared. I bought an umbrella.
The next day I set out to the Vatican. I only had a few hours until Alessandro and his parents were to meet me at my B&B, so I got an early start. I walked around St. Peter’s Square and took in as much beauty as I could from the outside. I didn’t have time to spend half the day in a line up so the insides of theses famous building will have to wait for another trip. Alessandro flew in from London and his mom and dad picked him up at the airport. They came by to collect me and off we went to their village of Tivoli about 40 outside of Rome. The small village of Tivoli has two UNESCO world heritage sites. Rome certainly has enough to keep anyone busy for a long time, but I highly recommend a little side trip to Tivoli. Villa Adriana (or Hadrian’s Villa) was built as a retreat for Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D. Years ago, I saw Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England so I suppose a visit to his villa was the next step.The next day Alessandro took me into Rome. Being a tourist is one thing, but being a tourist with a local takes things to a whole different level. We wandered around, saw the obvious sites as well as all sorts of less obvious things. He also shared backstories and legends and pointed out things no guide book can show you. It was such a wonderful day.Here we are the Tivoli Fountain on the left. On the right Ale is teaching me how to drink like a Roman. All over Rome there are these random pipes sticking out of walls with water coming out of them. The water is glorious fresh drinking water. All you have to do is use your finger to plug the end and water shoots out the top like a drinking fountain. Brilliant! Below on the left is the view from my B&B in Tivoli. Not too shabby.
Alessandro also took me through Villa d’Este in Tivoli. The other UNESCO world heritage site. You really need to see this to understand it. When Ale told me he wanted to take me to see some fountains, I admit I was lukewarm on the idea. He seemed really jazzed about it and I was his guest so I went along with it. What he took me to was an incredible garden of gorgeous statues and fountains that totally blew my mind. We only had time to explore the grounds but he tells me the house/palace is awesome too. I now totally trust his opinion when it comes to sight seeing activities. Then Alessandro, his mom and dad, and I pilled in the tiniest little Fiat you ever did see and drove to Carpi to redezvous with his beautiful bride to be.
And here she is:
The next day they got married surrounded by a wonderful group of family and friends. More on their beautiful wedding here.One advantage of staying with locals is learning about the food. I learned that dipping parmesan in balsamic vinegar, jam, or honey is amazing! Warning, eating as much parmesan as I did causes your feet to swell. True story. I also discovered a magical Italian cocktail called a Spritz. I may have had one or two or three of these…After the wedding, I said arrivederci to my friends and took a train to Cinque Terre. I found a place to stay for the night through Airbnb in Vernazza. It was a simple bed in a lady’s flat but it did the trick. You can see it here. It’s the second balcony from the top to the right of the bell tower. I dropped off my stuff and headed out to explore. The weather was not great but that didn’t stop me. Here is the spectacular view from the balcony of the place I stayed. The next day I had time to explore 4 of the 5 towns before I caught my train to Florence.My train to Florence was uneventful. When I was walking from the train station to my B&B I caught this incredible sunset as I crossed the river. I had been told Florence was beautiful and the city did not disappoint. Mandatory picture of Ponte Vecchio.Climbed to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset and dabble in some night photography. The next morning I got going bright and early to line up to climb to the top of the Duomo. I got there in good time and was about 10th in line. Getting to be one of the first to the top (I passed a few on the way up) definitely has its advantages. I got to get to all of the prime locations and take pictures for probably a good 10 minutes before it got crazy crowded up there. While I was at the top of the dome looking over at the tower (below on the left) I thought to myself that it would be nice to see the dome from the tower. So, because I’m a glutton from punishment and the 463 steps to top of the dome were not enough for one day, I went and had a chocolate croissant for fuel and then climbed the 414 steps to the top of the tower. There were no lines at the tower and it was 1 Euro and 49 steps less. If I only had time (or energy) for one I would recommend the tower. I think the view of the Duomo is better too.I will end the story of my journey here with a picture of delicious ice cream. I probably averaged about 2 of these a day. I think pistachio and the plain yogurt were my favourite. Although mojito deserves an honourable mention.