Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Celebrating 10 years: Rome

We left Florence and got on the train to Rome.....well we TRIED to get on a train to Rome. We got to the train station and I remember having trouble seeing our train even listed on the screen. It was a busy day for trains and I mixed up departing and arriving while Jason was in the bathroom and as soon as he got out, we got on the train. When the conductor came around to grab our tickets, he realized we were on a train to Milan, NOT Rome. He was very nice and we ended up wasting about 2 hours as we had to get off after about an hour and then wait for the next train going the opposite direction. Sheesh! So we left at 9am and got to Rome at 12:40p. woops!

We took to the streets of Rome to do some shopping. A lot of the city was closed for their holiday to celebrate the Virgin Mary. We went out for dinner and then took the walk to the Trevi Fountain.
 It was a beautiful night and it was definitely crowded. Gorgeous to see in person. They estimate about 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain every day.

 The next morning we woke up early to tour the Vatican.
 I learned so much about the Vatican that I didn't know! I had no clue it was it's own country with it's own rules/jail/etc. We just happened to be visiting when it was the year of the Jubilee. This only happens once every 25 years. The Pope designates an area of the Vatican to open a new doorway. It is said that if you walk through this doorway that your sins are forgiven. After the year of the Jubilee is over then the doorway is closed and never to be opened again.
 I took more pictures than I am posting but half of the reason of why I took the pictures, I now can't remember. Could be because it was beautiful but we had some awesome tour guides explaining, and everything to me was fascinating.
 The ceilings were unreal. Some appeared 3 D and it was just unbelievable.
 This ceiling had zero lights attributing to its illumination. Pictures just don't do it justice
 There were beautiful 3 D maps made of every part of Italy. This is called the Gallery of Maps.  It remains the world's largest pictorial geographical study.

 Sometimes it was hard to portray the scale of things. Here is an area leading into the courtyard of St. Peter's Basillica.
 The Basillica was amazing. Incredibly tall ceilings and everything seemed to be at such a massive scale.
 This picture is taken after you have walked through the Jubilee door. You couldn't take pictures of the door from the outside but could from the inside (?)
 A piece done by Michelangelo called the Pieta, which depicts Jesus on Mary's lap following his crucifixion. It is now behind glass walls because a man from Australia climbed on it and hit it with a hammer 13 times and was then placed in 1/3 Vatican Jail cells for a number of years.

 This is where the pope would stand to give mass
 St. Peters square
 The balcony where the pope would stand to address the people
 St. Peters basilica

 After our Vatican tour (and the Sistine Chapel which we couldn't take pictures of- but was so beyond beautiful and such a work of art!!) we then went to tour the Colosseum and The Roman Forum
 Our tour guide for this part of the tour is an archeologist that is incredibly passionate about the Colosseum and it's preservation.
 Overlooking where the underground hallways and tunnels were since the flooring has been removed.
 Across the way in this picture is an area where they recreated what it would look like to have the flooring in place for the gladiators to fight
 We are up in some of the higher seating sections here looking down. This structure is just huge!

 After the Coliseum we proceeded to the Roman Forum.

 Walking around palatine hill.
 This was a location of a large empire where just one family lived. Massive palace for royalty.
This was one awesome tour day. To hear about the ruins, how much was stolen and destroyed. Imagining everything covered in marble and beautiful stones. We had an awesome tour guide as I mentioned that was incredibly passionate. It helped make the tour not only educational but incredibly interesting to hear the facts and details dating back to times even before Christ. It's so hard to even imagine what life was like back in those times but even the movie Gladiator was helpful to give a glimpse of the Coliseum and what it may have been like. Rome was a stop unlike any other and I'm so glad we didn't miss out! Up next we take a private car driven by a Pitbull look-a-like a few hours to Sorrento!!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Celebrating 10 years in Italy: Florence

This post has more to do with Tuscany than Florence because we spent a whole day touring Tuscany from our first stop in Sienna,  to a vineyard in San Gimignano, and last to Pisa.

We arrived via train to Florence, but what I didn't do was although I had our transportation from city to city booked and all set, I didn't have transportation set up once we reached the city to get to the hotel. Which is ok since the hotels were always very close to the transportation hub, however, we learned very quickly that I can NOT be trusted when it comes to directions.
We took a tram to get closer to our hotel however we still got lost and thankfully Jason always steered us back in the right direction.

Many places were closed for 'holiday' so we decided to hop on a bus going to' The Mall'. The Mall is a designer outlet (Prada, Gucci, Valentino, Burberry....) and funny enough ate lunch in Gucci at the Gucci cafe. We didn't buy anything but had a fun trip checking it out.

We then walked around the streets of Florence and many little bars were open. We decided to take a seat so I could buy an infamous 'spritz' which is an orange liqueur with soda and Prosecco. In Venice they make it with wine instead of champagne. Then we found an amazing 'mom and pop' restaurant called Trattoria Armando, which words can't describe, it was that good. So so so good. Can't rave enough about it. We got there early enough to get a spot since they take mostly reservations and are booked for the night. We enjoyed the beautiful sunset below while resting in a food coma from all the amazing food and wine.

The next morning, we got on a tour bus with our first stop in Sienna. Sienna has the worlds oldest bank started in 1472 and is still open.

Another view of the bank from the courtyard
Sienna and Florence had always been in battle back in ancient times. The core of the two cities were based on rich families in constant feud, which they say inspired Romeo and Juliet. The story of Robin Hood was also inspired from Sienna.

We just happened to be in Sienna when they were celebrating the famous Palio horse race. It was set to happen the day after we were there (occurs annually). There are 13 districts that make up Sienna. Whatever district you were born in, regardless of whom you marry or where you have moved, is the district you are to cheer for. Each district has a different silk scarf that each individual wears during this celebration.  And here is where the horse race takes place.

Winning the Palio horse race gives that district bragging rights for that year and its a huge honor with lots of celebration.

Beautiful alleyways

The main church in Sienna

The bell tower is the only striped looking portion of the church

We toured the local museum with beautifully painted ceilings

Next we traveled to a vineyard in San Gimignano. Our meal was made entirely from the orchard. It is overlooking the main city with skyscrapers wayyyy in the background where it has tall medieval towers which is why it is called the Medieval Manhattan.

Rows and rows of all different grapes

They have their own cows specific for beef or milk

Happy Sunday bull !

Olive trees. They told us their process of how to make the best olive oil. They made sure at lunch we had plenty to try and I could have drank it from the bottle!

The vineyard is also a bed & breakfast. I can imagine it would be quite phenomenal to stay there

We were able to try 4 different wines that they paired with each part of our 5 course meal. We didn't leave without buying our favorite wine which was a Chianti.

Pictures doesn't do the view justice.

We took the tour bus into the city and were told which Gelato was voted the best in the world. However, we got Gelato from a place that claimed to be the best in the world, and then turned out to see the real place that was recommended was behind us. Whoops! It was still amazing.

Then we shopped into town and found Jason a beautiful pair of Italian wing backed shoes and also found my mom her one request of silver hooped earrings. Most of what we had seen for jewelry so far was gold so once we found a pair, we thought...."Earrings from Tuscany? Perfect!!"

Our last stop for the day was in Pisa to see the leaning tower. This is the view we saw the moment we got off the bus.

After the tower was partially built up the people ran out of money, and construction had been stopped. ( the tower was already leaning at this time as it was built on a foundation of sand) Then once decided to continue building they tried to correct the lean, which is why the tower curves almost like a banana.

They told us where to go to get the infamous 'holding up Pisa with a finger' photo. It was hilarious to see all these people holding up their hands or fingers randomly in the air to get the right shot.

So we attempted quite a few to try and get it right

We are standing on these taller sculptures just like everyone else around us

I captured Jason's feet in this one so you can see, we are crossing over the gate trying hard not to fall into the grass with clear signs saying "don't step on grass"

We were able to walk into town a little bit. Surprisingly we had a hard time finding a quick pizza slice to go. We were on a time crunch as we had a specific time to tour and climb the leaning tower.

We made it to the top. It was hard to do with the slippery marble steps that were leaning. Not to mention we had to pass some people in the narrow stairwell that were having a hard time making it to the top. The stairs weren't close together so coming down was actually more difficult since it's slippery and people are trying to climb up and get down in a very narrow space.

You can walk around the top to get an entire 360 degree view

The beautiful bells

The view of Pisa

We had to take the bus a few hours back to Florence and pack  up so we could head to ROME!

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