This past November, I had the incredible opportunity to travel with my siblings (Tyler, Stephanie, Casey) and our friend Corey, who's more or less like a sibling to us all, to the beautiful country of Italy! We had purchased our plane tickets through price line over the summer and for a pretty good deal - round trip too! We flew into Rome, then took a train to Florence, a pit stop in Pisa, then finished in Venice. We stayed at a different Airbnb in each city. I think Florence was everyone's favorite because of the outdoor/rooftop patio with a view of the Duomo - even though it was a workout to get to our living space as you had to climb 4-5 flights of stairs, and man did we climb A LOT of stairs in the city of Florence. (Photo below from our wine tour in Florence).
Below I listed the highlights of the activities we did and the places we saw in all three cities. Some things you probably can guess, as said places are typical tourists spots and must-do's (like the Colosseum in Roma), but others might be new to you! While we didn't get around to doing everything we probably had planned, we still saw and did the majority of our list we set out to do including drinking lots and lots of vino, eating our weights worth in pasta (as well as Caprese salads), grabbing gelato just about every night for dessert and chowing down on a nice slice of freshly made Italian Pizza pretty much every day (I say that with my best intimidation of an Italian accent). Even if we didn't get to do and see it all, the journey through these four historic and scenic cities was all new to us, and we loved every minute of it! Come with me on my Italia adventure as I share my photos with you as well as some interesting facts and information on the sites!
- Spanish Steps (pictured below left) - March 20th, 1986, the first McDonald's in Italy was opened near the Spanish Steps
- Trevi Fountain (pictured below right)- Every night about 3,000 Euros are swept up from the bottom of the fountain and the money is donated to a Catholic charity to help the needy families in Rome.
- Vatican City (Pictured below)- Vatican City is the smallest country in the world! Who knew? It covers 100 acres, making it 1/8th the size of NYC's Central Park.
- St. Peter's Square (Mass with the Pope, also pictured above)
- St. Peter's Basilica: The World's largest church building (picture of the interior below).
- Colosseum - The Colosseum took 10 years to build, and it is thought that over 500,000 people lost their lives and over a million animals were killed throughout the duration of the Colosseum when it hosted battles between gladiators and wild animals that included lions and tigers and bears, Oh my!
- Roman Forum/Palatine Hill (pictured below) - The Forum was the political, religious, and commercial center of the city. Rome's most important temples and halls of justice were here. Today its remains are a site scattered with ancient ruins of the buildings, monuments and sculptures that once stood. The Palatine (one of the seven hills of Rome) became the place where the powerful and wealthy retreated to build their homes and relax. The Palatine overlooks the Roman Forum (pictured in the second photo below).
- Pantheon (Roman temple to Gods) - the word "Pantheon" is a Greek adjective meaning "honor all God's." (pictured below and we had dinner and dessert in front of the Pantheon one night, pictured bottom.)
- Rome Food Tour: Booked through "The Roman Food Tour" and our tour guide's name was Maixmo. He took us through Rome's foodie neighborhood with locally loved venues including the largest food market in Rome, an authentic gelateria and other hidden gems! He also gave us a history of the buildings and architecture around the city of Rome! If he had an important fact or interesting detail to share with us, he always started off his sentence with 'By the Way," in an Italian accent of course, a phrase we mimicked all throughout the trip!
- Forno: One of the oldest, if not the oldest bakery in Rome. Here we had fresh baked pizza!
- Birra & Sale Bar: where we enjoyed some beers and a charcuterie board with cheese, meats and bread
- MAMi: we ate stuffed zucchini flowers
- Lant Eustachio il Caffe: coffee shop established in 1938. I believe our tour guide said it was one of the oldest in Rome
- da Simo. . . Pane e Vino: enjoyed lunch at this spot. Tried different veggies and meats as well as potatoes
- Pasticceria "Boccione" Limentani: located in the ghetto of Rome, a Jewish bakery that makes pizze - dense bricks of sweet dough with whole almonds, pine nuts, raisins and chunks of candied fruit
- Gelateria Artigianale: our last stop on the food tour was of course, gelato - on.e of the best in town
- Campanile (Giotto's Tower) /Bell Tower - A climb of over 400 steps (Top of the bell tower pictured below)
- Duomo - (463 steps) Has been capable of withstanding lightning, earthquakes and the passage of time since it was erected between 1418 and 1434. (Dome pictured below as well as inside the dome, and me standing on the top of the dome).
- San Lorenzo Market - (not pictured) open air market for scarves, t-shirts, cheap souvenirs and leather bags
- Mercato Nuovo (straw market) - stands a wild bore statue (pictured below), in which people rub the nose of the statue to ensure they return to Florence one day!
- Ponte Vecchio - famous bridge lined with gold and silver jewelry shops (bridge pictured to the left in photo below)
- Piazzale Michelangelo - (pictured below) square/plaza built in 1869, which hosts a panoramic view of Florence. We brought wine to the plaza and enjoyed watching the sunset and toasting to our second stop on our Italy trip - incredible views and breathtaking sunset. Just beautiful!
- Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy - (not pictured) Oldest Pharmacy in the world!
- La Milkeria - famous for their crepes and breakfast (**Breakfast isn't very big in Italy, most people order a pastry and a cappuccino. If you order a cappuccino later during the day, you get weird looks!)
- i'tosto - sandwich shop for breakfast or lunch. They make GIANT pressed sandwiches!
- Gusta Pizza - One of the best pizza shops in Florence. The pizza is cooked in a wood-fired stone oven (pictured below).
- Wine Tour in Florence: We stopped at two different wineries and lunch was prepared for us while tasting different wines.
- Murano - island famous exclusively for glass making. Glass was at one point in history, an extremely luxurious and valuable commodity in Italy available only to the rich and wealthy ones.
- Burano - One of the most colorful places in the world. Every house is painted a different color (pictured below). The island is also famous for lace making.
- Rioloto Bridge - the oldest bridge across the Grand Canal and took three years to finish. The present day bridge is made of marble, as it was prone to frequent collapses through its history.
- Grand Canal - (pictured below) forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city, splitting the city into two halves. From above, Venice looks like the shape of a fish!
- Giant Hands - (pictured above) represent the devastation of climate change. Contemporary artist, Lorenzo Quinn, intended to highlight the understanding of the environmental impact for places such as Venice. Scientists warned that Venice could disappear underwater within a century if sea levels continue to rise.
- Libreria Acqua Alta - One of the most original libraries in the world (pictured below is the back of the library; you climb the stairs made of books, overlooking the canal).
- Leaning Tower of Pisa - leaning is due to the soft subsoil in the entire area and has leaned in multiple directions. The tower was built to show off with "stolen money." Like any prosperous medieval Italian city, Pisa began to invest its new wealth in the construction grand buildings. After sacking Palermo in 1063 the city government needed a place to display all of the treasures that adventurers had brought back from Sicily, so they decided to construct the “Field of Miracles” which would eventually be home to a Cathedral, Baptistery, cemetery, and one very tall bell tower. (Facts from WalksofItaly.com).