WEEK TWO – Italy!
I was very reluctant to leave Paris, but Italy was calling. Another flight via Berlin airport (German beer handle included) and we landed in Rome. Pizza was of course on the menu for tea straight up; it lived up to every expectation that day, and every day after…sometimes twice a day! Being very minimalist with the toppings and a thin crust meant that it was too easy to eat a whole pizza to yourself, followed by amazing gelato…yes, I am a bit rounder now!
The next few days were full of wonder. First was our visit to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica (Church) and Square. Beyond amazing. The history within those walls was overwhelming, the stories, the memories, the people that have stood where you are standing. The vandalism on the walls from the French invasion, the intricate art on the walls and ceilings, the mosaic flooring, and marble – everywhere! I could have spent all day in St Peter’s, everywhere you looked there was a different piece of artwork, another tomb of previous Popes, stories told in painting, sculptures, inscriptions and chapels. My photos in no way do that huge Church justice.
Neither do my photos capture the amazing monument that is the colosseum. To know what took place where we were standing, how it used to look, and how many people fit into the enormous stadium was pretty cool. While we were there a storm all of a sudden rolled in, bringing heavy rain and even some hail! It was still so warm – a real summer storm. That halted our tour slightly, but it wasn’t long before we got out to check out the Roman Forum (the historic hub of politics, religion and business in Rome) in very muggy conditions.
On our last full day we took another Open Bus tour. As the history of Rome was so accessible to us, we had already seen a lot just by walking around or the tours we had done, so it was great to listen to the commentary on some of the places we had seen unknowingly. For our final tourist trick, we made our wish in the Trevi Fountain, had our last authentic pizza’s (don’t worry, we did have pasta sometimes too!) and packed up ready for Florence.
TOP ROME MOMENT: Technically, the Vatican is its own state and it doesn’t count in my Rome moments, so I can have two: Being within the Vatican walls and in St Peter’s Church was amazing, I still say wow and wish I could go back! The Colosseum stands out as my Rome moment for sure.
We jumped aboard a train for our trip to Florence, reaching speeds of 250km/hr. You don’t notice how fast you are going until you pass another train doing the same speed; a flash of colour, a little woosh, and it is gone! We put our culinary skills to the test in a cooking class that night, where alongside a family from Chicago we made a 4 course meal from scratch. The menu was;
Entrée: Vegetable Millefoglie.
Starter: Fresh egg pasta and meat sauce Bolognese.
Main: Farmers chicken.
Dessert: Chocolate Soufflé.
Not only did we make our own pasta (and expertly!) but we got to enjoy the meal in the lovely wine cellar dining room and take away the recipes to try at home…..anyone have a pasta machine we can borrow?
We did a walking tour of Florence the next day – as the monuments weren’t immediately recognisable to us, we probably didn’t appreciate them enough, but I was very impressed with the detail on the Basilica that was near our hotel. We enjoyed how Florence was quieter, but we started to miss the space of home – I don’t remember seeing a blade of grass! The shopping was great though, many bargains to be had, just not enough baggage to take them home in.
TOP FLORENCE MOMENT: The cooking class was so fun and delicious, and it was fun comparing America and Australia with the family afterwards – have you ever tried to explain cricket to people who have never seen it? Impossible! (My description was ‘unless it’s 20/20, its stupid!)
Next stop; Venice. Another train ride and this one finished crossing over the water to Venice – what a relief it was seeing water for these 2 water babies! Venice is an amazing city with its maze of streets and hidden secrets. We found some beautiful places to dine in, and when we got homesick, we found a wonderful homey takeaway for some greasy food, and the greatest cookies and cupcakes ever! We took the obligatory gondola ride on the Venice canals, I am sure I held my core tight the entire time for fear of tipping over! We had mostly free time in Venice, and opted not to take any more tours, instead we discovered little hotspots for ourselves, dipped our feet in the canals and enjoyed kicking back at restaurants alongside the main canal.
TOP VENICE MOMENT: Winding our way through the streets and finally hitting the water – you could feel the cool air the closer we got!