I remember two things about my first trip to Rome- it was unbearably hot and absurdly crowded...not exactly one of my favorite cities. However, what I quickly found was that visiting during March definitely helped with both of these negatives. After a day of flights, we started off our journey by stumbling across the Trevi Fountain before making our way to the Pantheon. Unlike what my 21 year old self thought, this is not, in fact, the Parthenon... but the ambiance created by the hippie playing Pink Floyd in the square made for some nice background music as we stopped for some bird shaped antipasti.
difficult to deny how impressive this state is. We were quickly overwhelmed by the amount of paintings, statues, and tapestries. I also had quite a fondness for the incredible ceilings.
Having visited Florence before and watching Under the Tuscan Sun on numerous occasions, I already knew that I was going to love going back to this city. Our hotel was just a few blocks from one of the most famous sites in the city, the Duomo, and we wasted no time checking it out. I think you could literally spend hours outside just looking at the fine pink, green, and white sculptures and carvings that decorate the outside of the building.
o Giotto’s Campanile, or bell tower, where we climbed another 414 steps and also the baptistery next door which was created because no one could enter the cathedral until they were baptized. Here, my obsession with Italian ceilings continued.
Of course, no trip to Florence would be complete without their most famous cuisine...BEEF! We stumbled across a little restaurant where I had steak with truffle butter. There are no words to express just how delicious this steak was. It would only be outdone the next night by Hot Stuff's bistecca alla Fiorentina at Buca Mario. A steak that was bigger than the dinner guest and then topped off with a dessert trolley...two words that were like magic to my ears. Of course I had to try the Torta della Nonna, or Grandma's cake, which was essentially a pastry crust filled to the brim with vanilla custard. Florence was definitely winning in the food department.
So if not for the food and the architecture, why else is this city so amazing? Some may say it's the art, and for good reason. After all, Florence is home to David and the Birth of Venus, both of which we saw. And while Renaissance art isn't exactly my jam, I could probably sit and stare at Michelangelo's sculpting all day. The detail and the expressions felt through a statue where something like I've never seen before.
But for me, the amazingness actually lies in getting outside the city and into the Tuscan countryside. My favorite part of our entire trip was when we did a bike tour through Tuscany. We started out by visiting an old castle, once home to a Count and Countess, but now a winery and olive oil factory. Then we set off on the rolling hills with our Italian bike helmets and my trusty bike aptly named Einstein. Our journey led us to lunch on a hilltop before we biked back to the castle. I don't know what it is about me + vacations + bikes, but I loved it!
Our time in Florence quickly came to an end, but not before we could snap some #EPP (European power pose) photos. (It's an Instagram thing...and it's kind of weird. #youths).
When most people think of Venice, they automatically think of romance, because really, what could be more romantic than a city built on water with gondoliers rowing through the mazes of canals? What I thought of when I remembered my first time in Venice was the horrible smell, brown water, and being lost. However, just like in Rome, I was again pleasantly surprised by this city during my second time around. The whole concept of Venice is fascinating to me- a city built on water and being held up by tree trunks. I loved all of the bridges and tiny nooks hidden within the cities tight streets, (don't get me wrong, when you have somewhere to be, this is also very frustrating). And the best part is just how quiet it gets in Venice because there are no cars. It's amazing that we don't realize how loud all of the cars and buses can be!
Of course our Italian foodie trip continued when we tried out a wine and cicchetti tour on our first night and got to experience the happy hour-esque Venetian culture. Cicchetti are small plates like tapas that incorporate fresh seafood and compliment any wine that you choose. Delish!
We also found cookies that you buy by weight...obviously this was a highlight for me. We even managed to make our way through the maze of streets to find this particular shop twice. I suppose at least we were walking while we ate them.
The sightseeing game in Venice was strong as we got our taste of both the local life and the tourist spots. We started by going to the weekend fish market and seeing people buying their dinners which made me wish that we were invited over for dinner.
Then we headed over the Rialto Bridge to go to Piazza San Marco, home to another beautiful cathedral and palace.
We also dared to attempt another maze to find the Libreria Acqua Alta- a bookstore that was full of boats. They had so many books they even built a set of stairs out of them! Definitely an awesome, unique find.
All in all, our trip to Italy was full of everything you would expect: food, history, sight seeing, and fun. I can't wait to see where our next journey will take us!