Friday, June 4, 2010

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Italy Day 14: Rome

Our last day of our trip has us heading back to where we started...Rome. With a 7 AM flight back home the next day, we had one last night to live it up before heading back.

I had been wondering if Rome could live up to our first impression. You know how sometimes when you go back somewhere for the second time, it just isn't quite the same as the wonderful first impression you had. I was very happy that it did. We had another great time.

We didn't really have an agenda. I just wanted to walk around and take it all in one more time. We got into the main part of the city at about 5 or so in the evening. We walked all up from Piazza Venecia to Piazza de Popolo doing some window shopping. We headed over to the Spanish Steps again, and then down past Trevi Fountain. We ended up in Campo de Fiore for dinner and had a nice time in the lively square. Stephanie wanted to grab her favorite white chocolate gelato one last time, so we headed to Piazza Navona later for that. Seeing all these great places and the backstreets in between cemented our admiration for the city once again. Walking Rome in the evening was one of the lasting impressions I will take from the trip.

That's a wrap. Its up at 4:30 AM to fly back home. I can't wait to come back....I know we will.

Italy Day 13: Orvieto

We left Florence and took a train to Orvieto. The town is located in Umbria, in the heart of wine country. We planned to explore a bit of the town of Orvieto, known for wine and olive oil, in the early afternoon before headed to a nearby winery to stay the night.

We visted the old part of town of Orvieto, which rises above the surrounding wine country. You actually have to take a tram/ski lift type ride to get to the old town from below. It is pretty small up top, and has a great old country feel to it. We walked the cobblestone streets, and checked out the Orvieto Cathedral.

We then headed to our winery, Locanda Palazzone. I cannot tell you how excited we were to arrive. The surrounding country was just beautiful, the view from the winery amazing. The winery itself had a classic look, with a newly remodeled interior. Our room was two stories, with a view of the countryside.

We relaxed and swam in the pool, walked around the grounds, and had an imimate dinner outside. The food was spectacular. I could not recommend this place enough to anyone wanted a great Tuscan experience. It was our favorite place we stayed of the trip thus far.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Italy Day 11 and 12: Florence

We left Venice on a Sunday morning and arrived in Florence a couple hours later. Our first reaction when we got to Florence...."Whoa...Cars". We had spent the last week in two cities that basically had none: the Cinque Terre and Venice. Back to reality with speeding cars and motorcycles everywhere in downtown Florence was a trip back to reality a bit.

We checked into our bed and breakfast after arriving. This proved to be the most disappointing place we stayed during the trip. It was a bit outside of the area we would have liked to be, and it proved to be a little less than ideal from a cleanliness perspective. This may have slightly impressioned our Florence experience, but we tried to make the best of it and get past it.

We had reservations at the Uffizi Gallery in the late afternoon and headed out to make them. The Uffizi had some reallly amazing pieces. I particularly enjoyed seeing a couple of the Da Vinci and Michaelangelo pieces. They definately stand out to me from the rest.

That evening we had a fantastic dinner....what may prove to be the best food of the trip. We ate at a small place on Piazza di Santa Croce. After a long day, it was just what the docter ordered. We had a long relaxing delicious Tuscan meal.

On our second day, we wanted to explore a bit more. We headed up to Piazza Michaelangelo and enjoyed some amazing views of the city. We then enjoyed a nice walk down by the river and across the Ponte Vecchio. We enjoy this part of the walk a lot.

We continued through town and winded up cruising through the Mercado Centrale, a busy gathering of tents with vendors selling all sorts of stuff. It was interesting but not quite our thing. We nevertheless took the opportunity to snag a few deals.

In the evening we headed across town and up to another great lookout spot...Fiesole. I really enjoyed the view of Florence and its surroundings from here. Just fantastic. We had dinner at a place overlooking the city. The view was fantastic, but the food was not up to par for some of the meals we have had.

We set our next sights on a more intimate feel of Tuscany...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Italy Day 9 and 10: Venice

Internet access has become a little more difficult, and thus the combined posts...

Our last two days in Venice were just awesome. We really enjoyed the city a lot, and we will have some great memories.

On our second to last day, we started out by walking through the city to catch a vaporetto to Murano. Just walking through the city to different points is a lot of fun. One minute you are walking amongst bustling tourists, such as near the Rialto Bridge, and the next you are the only people on a deserted little street walking over canals and boats.

Murano is know for its glass blowing. After getting off the boat (only a ten minute ride or so) we walked up and down the streets. We must have gone into about 50 or so little glass shops, all with outstanding piece of glass art. We got a few item to take back that particularly caught our eye. Stephanie was truly in love with this place. We had a nice sit down lunch with caprese, lasagna, chicken and potatoes before heading back.

After siesta and before dinner we took a long walk around a part of the city we had not seen before. We crossed the Rialto and walked down through the city to another bridge, the Accademia, before circling back to a restaurant we had targeted. We walked as the sun went down, had drinks and took some great pictures. We ate at a great pizzaria to end the night.

On our last day in Venice, we targeted some famous sights. We headed to St. Mark's Square early in the day. We toured the square and St. Mark's Basilica with our audioguides. We did the Correr Museum and then the Doge's Palace. The square itself and the Doge's Palace were our favorites.

In the evening, we had heard about a Venitian tradition that consisted of a Venetian pub crawl: going from wine bar to wine bar having wine and small appetizers. We decided to hit this up, and had a blast. We went to four or five different places trying different things. After we stopped eating, we continued to grab drinks to go and walk the streets. We ended up in St. Mark's square again. It was my favorite place to be at night. Three orchestra bands play great music to delight the the crowds. It was fun to listen and drink along. We crusied back to our hotel late, after a fabulous night.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Italy Day 8: Venice

We got up early to start our travelling today to Venice. It took three trains and about 6 hours or so to get there, but this day of travel seemed way more relaxed than the others. I think both of us have gotten used to the trains and train stations at this point.

On the last leg, we boarded a train in Bologna headed for Venice. We hopped in a car, and ended up sitting right next to the same Americans that we dined next to in Rome about 4 days earlier. Small world. There were six of them, and they were all super nice. Stephanie sat with the girls and chatted while I had beers with the guys. It was a very fun couple hours on this train into Venice, and it flew by.

We arrived in Venice in the afternoon and made our way via vaporetto, water bus, down the Grand Canal and to our hotel near the Rialto Bridge. Venice is beautiful. It is a little surreal with all the canals and streets intertwined.

We dined late at a fancy restaurant that was delicious. It was a fun and romantic dinner. We wandered around after dinner, stopping on the Rialto Bridge, looking in store fronts. We ended up walking into St. Mark's Square where orchestras were entertaining onlookers. Its all a pretty magical place.

We ended the night with a Gondola ride. It was after midnight and we crusied around in our private gondola for about an hour. Full moon was out and we had a bottle of prosecco in hand. We had a great time.

Italy Day 7: Cinque Terre

Our last day in the Cinque Terre, and I was ready to do some hiking. I convinced Stephanie to wake up early and do the hike from our town, Vernazza, to the town of Monterroso. The hike between these two towns is the toughest, but the most scenic. We both loved the hike. Stephanie wasn't loving it about 2o minutes in, as the first stretch seems to go up forever. But we were having a great time once it leveled off and had some amazing views. We got some great pictures.

We were in need of a rest once reaching Monterroso, so we rented chairs and an umbrella on the beach and laid out in the sun. I did a little cooling off in the Mediterranean as well. Very refreshing. We grabbed some lunch and checked out the town a bit before taking a ferry back to Vernazza.

In the evening we decided to spend our last night in Vernazza, and had dinner Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre. The place is run by two twins from Sicily, and they were very charming and entertaining. The food was absolutely fantastic as well. This made for probably our most enjoyable dining experience thus far. Massimo chatted with us tons on each visit to our table, and he had some great lines that we will remember. On of my favorites was when he was explaining why they don't have a view from their restaurant. He said they prefer "the view on the plate". Another memorable one was the forms of payment they accepted. They said "cash or wash dishes" when we asked if they took Visa. They said they preferred wash dishes. They have some incredible desserts as well. Stephanie was in love with their fresh fruit slushies. They had made a fig shushie that day. We ended up having two (we had one in the afternoon, and had one again after we came back for dinner there). We also had a Cannoli with riccota and chocolate at their insistance that was great as well.

All in all, I think this was my favorite day in the Cinque Terre.