We arrived in the steamy capital of Italy and hopped a cab to our Airbnb. As the fairly young cabby looked at us over the top of his glasses he gave us Italian lessons, a sightseeing tour, lots of suggestions on where to eat gelato, which coffee places to avoid and where to find good pizza… all while stereotypically approaching the lane lines on the road as mere suggestions.
A stop in Italy was the result of our airfare deal. When I researched the best way to use our miles, I found that we had a completely free flight within Europe in the middle of our itinerary. We had to go somewhere! Since I’d never been to Italy it was a fairly easy decision. I planned a whirlwind tour of Rome, Florence, and Venice with the idea of packing in educational elements for the girls.
France in May and early June had been fairly cool. We got our dose of the sun and heat upon landing in Rome though. After settling in it was time to see the sights and boy did we take it seriously. We started off our Italian adventures by seeing several churches on our way to Piazza Navona near to which we had a late lunch in a raucous Italian restaurant downing carbonara and mozzarella di bufala. After having our fill we put away some gelato. For our evening walk, we followed the masses to Trevi Fountain then walked back by Adriano’s Tempio. We stopped at a great rooftop bar for an Aperol spritz after which we magically ran into the Pantheon. Not bad for only arriving in town at 12pm!
So that should be an indication of the level of our touristic intensity while in Italy. I won’t take you down EVERY path we walked during the rest of our week, but just know that we are in great shape for the backpacking trip we are gearing up for. I don’t have a Fitbit, but I’d be surprised if we didn’t average over 6 miles a day.
Rome was amazing but sadly we didn’t have enough time as we had a flight delay on our way there. The good news was that it allowed us to tick off Germany as a destination. The bad news is that we stayed in a weird hotel in a business park… The highlight was going 110 m/h in an 11 seater van on the autobahn while watching cars pass us as if we were standing still! With the time ticking, I decided to book a tour of the Colosseum, the Forum and Palatine Hill. After attending a lovely English expat Mass at Santo Spirito Sassia we headed to our tour. Happily, it was with a very small group lead by a professional archeologist from Rome. It was AMAZING and we couldn’t have been happier to have a knowledgeable guide to give us so many cool insights into these amazing places.
After seeing St. Peter’s Bacillica the next morning, and of course eating more fabulous food, we hopped a train to Florence where we stayed in a lovely little apartment inside the walls of the ancient city. After my experience with a great tour in Rome, I booked two tours in Florence, an evening history tour of the city with a historian who brought Florence to life for us, then a very intellectual guide who took us to the David and gave us so much to think about with his insights into Michelangelo and his creative process. Both were amazing and in-between times we walked the city streets, ate gelato, found wonderful Osterias and Trattorias and generally marveled at the beauty of the birthplace of the Renaissance … and banking.
Off to Venice! We took the train right to the wharf where we hopped a waterbus to our lovely and last apartment. We were situated off the beaten track with a canal view all while being an easy walk to areas of interest. In Venice for our last few days, we decided to forego the guided tours, opting instead to wander around the streets, getting lost, stopping for apertivos regularly and just getting a feel for this magical place. Instead of going on a gondola ride, we sprung for a private water taxi to the airport. He picked us up only a few feet from our front door. We snaked our way through the canals and then zoomed across the bay feeling *very fancy*.
And that was it! Or was it…. we had a flight to Zürich and then San Francisco. Our layover in Zürich was extended to 6 hours! So, we took a fast train into the city, had a lovely lunch and a good long walk before our long flight to California. We got a great feel for Switzerland and deciding that this is definitely a place we’d love to come back to.
And that really was it. When we landed back in California we settled into my parents’ house for a few nights while we planned the next part of our adventures together.
Things we learned:
- The tours that you find on Airbnb were all amazing and so worth it.
- 1 week is really not enough for Italy… next time we need at least 1 month!
- Most of the churches in Rome scavenged their marble and bronze from the ancient Roman buildings and statues. In some cases, they would just change the face of the statue!
- While digging 10 cm down in Rome, they regularly find very important discoveries.
- Perhaps this is why it took Ancient Romans only 8 years to build the Colosseum, but the present-day Romans are 10 years in and maybe 10 years still to-go in building one subway station…
- They had convenience stores all over ancient Florence! Also known as “Wine Windows.” Knock and you shall receive wine… if you put in the money first!