Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – The Colosseum and Exploring Rome

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Italy – Exploring Rieti
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Italy – Castello Orsini Hotel
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 6

**********

After our self-guided walking tour ended, we still had about a week left in Italy. Our first night was in accommodations that were still a part of the tour, which was a nice hotel on Borgo Pio. This was a fun street very close to the Vatican with lots of restaurants that had tables set out in the street which was mostly closed off from cars. On our first night my Mom and I took some time to just walk round. For the two other nights we were in Rome we used VRBO to find a small apartment that could comfortably fit our group of seven. I’ve only used AirBnB in the past, but I thought we had a great experience with VRBO in Rome and in the two following cities we visited.

Other than the afternoon we arrived, we had one full day in Rome for exploring and an additional morning. I’m going to split up my pictures from Rome into two posts.

Along Borgo Pio.

I’ve always said that I could eat these kind of plates every day and not get tired of it, and after this trip that is definitely true!

The rooms in our hotel were all so different, but my grandparents had the best one. This is just a small glimpse, but essentially the whole room was painted like this! It was so pretty. And for my Grammy, who is an artist herself, this was a fun stay.

Grammy and Mom. Can you tell they are related?

We didn’t know what this was when we came up on it, but after some help from trusty Google, I think it is home to the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento (a research institute) and the Sacrario delle bandiere (an army museum). Regardless it was beautiful!

My Mom and Grampy decided to tackle these insane stairs while the rest of us went around another way. We thought we’d connect with them sooner, but it actually took them on a little detour through the Basilica Dell’ Ara Coeli.

Meanwhile, we hung out for a bit on the Campidoglio, a square designed by Michelangelo and lined with museums and a statue of Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor from the 2nd century.

This area is called the “Roman Forum” (forum meaning plaza or square) and holds the ruins of several ancient government buildings, including a prison and a basilica. This was a hub for religious and public life in ancient Rome. We didn’t have the time to explore this area and learn more about it, so it is definitely on my list if I ever go back to Rome. But it was still beautiful to walk by.

We didn’t do much planning ahead and arrived at the Colosseum in the early afternoon when there was already long lines, so we opted to pay a little more to “jump the line” with a small tour group. I know generally when traveling, people say to avoid things like this because that’s where you end up spending more money than you might have originally planned. We didn’t super plan out the second half of our trip after the walk because we just didn’t know what we would feel like doing and decided to take our second half of the trip day by day. So honestly, this option was the best for us. We decided we wanted to do a tour and paying to jump the line meant that we could do more later in the day. But I would say, if you were planning a trip just to Rome, or at least had multiple days there, buying your ticket online and/or going at a less busy time would be the better option.

Anyway, I thought the Colosseum was incredible and am really happy we did the tour. I felt like I remembered enough Roman history from school to apply it to what I was seeing and it just amazes me to see something built that long ago to be standing today and full of so many stories.

The Colosseum was commissioned around AD 70-72 by Emperor Vespasian as a gift to the Roman people and opened in AD 80 with 100 days of games, including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights. After four centuries of active use, the arena fell into neglect, and up until the 18th century it was used as a source of building materials. Though two-thirds of the original Colosseum has been destroyed over time. It measured some 620 by 513 feet, had seating for more than 50,000 spectators and three stories of arched entrances supported by semi-circular columns.  (Source: www.history.com)

The “floor” of the area would have been level with where you see tourists on the opposite end of the photo. The tunnels and structures in the middle are where the slaves and animals were kept underneath the main level.

After the Colosseum, we walked over to the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) which was beautiful! It is the largest Baroque (a highly ornate and extravagant style of architecture from the 17th to mid 18th century) fountain in Rome. The legend is that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome. I think I had read that before our trip, but to be honest, by the time we made it here we were pretty worn out for the day and the crowd was pretty heavy, so we didn’t stay long. So hopefully I still make it back someday 🙂

I’ve read since then that the coins are collected each day and given to charity. I don’t know if that’s true, but that is pretty cool if it is.

Rome is such a beautiful city and we didn’t even scratch the surface of all the things there is to see and do.

I’ll be back soon with another post on Rome and our visit to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum.

**********

And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 6

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Italy – Exploring Rieti
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Italy – Castello Orsini Hotel
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5

**********

The sixth and final day of our self-guided walk started in the Monte Sacro district in Rome and took us to the Vatican. It covered about 10 miles and even though we were walking through the city, our path still took us on the scenic route, along a bike path, around the second largest park in Rome and down along the river.

I realized pretty quickly that it was a good thing I had taken the day before off, because after the first 2 miles or so I was back to hobbling along. But there was so much to see on this day and it was interesting to see the city transition from just pretty normal, modern city surroundings, to the more historical “old” (and touristy) parts.

This is the Mosque of Rome, and is the largest mosque outside the Islamic world, Russia and India, making it the Western world’s biggest mosque. After some opposition, Pope John Paul II gave his blessing to the building project. It’s minaret approximately 1 meter shorter than the dome of St. Peter’s.

Just about the time that we all admitted that we needed a longer break we found this weekend market where we tried some fun, different drinks and enjoyed looking around. There were also some meat and fish stands.

This is the Milvian Bridge (Ponte Milvio), which has quite a bit of historical significance, including the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in AD 312 led by Constantine. That victory led Constantine to total control over Rome and the Western Roman Empire, and the issuing of the Edict of Milan, which officially recognized Christianity in the Roman Empire.

In 2000, the bridge began attracting couples who were inspired by Federico Moccia’s book and movie “I Want You,” and attached padlocks to the lamp posts of the bridge as a token of their love and threw the key behind them into the Tiber River. In 2007, one of the lamp posts collapsed under the weight of the the padlocks, so in 2012 they were all removed and the practice was banned. But it had already spread as a common ritual elsewhere in the world and we still saw a few padlocks here and there.

After the Milvian Bridge, we turned and walked down along the river for the remainder of the way. The guidebook told us that we would pass under six bridges and the seventh bridge would be the Ponte Sant’Angelo with five arches each topped with a statue of an angel. I was so excited to finally see this bridge!

We walked up the stairs onto the bridge and quickly saw our end mark, St. Peter’s Basilica just down the street to the left.

This was our “finish line” photo! It was quite the adventure walking some 85 miles through the Italian countryside and truly a one-of-a-kind experience (even without the sprained ankle). If you are interested in really seeing a country at its heart, aside from the tourist attractions, I highly recommend considering doing a guided walk of some sort. It was beautiful and humbling in so many ways and I am so thankful that I got to share this experience with my dear family. Though I don’t know who else really would have put up with my crankiness 🙂

This was the end of our walk, but we still had another week of our vacation in which we explored more of Rome and visited Pompeii, Naples, Venice and Florence. So I still have a couple more blog posts coming at you soon!

**********

And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Italy – Exploring Rieti
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Italy – Castello Orsini Hotel

**********

I am combining Days 4 and 5 into one post because we took just a few less photos on these days, so I worked on making the ones I wanted to share fit in one. They were still both great days, but Day 4 ended up being another difficult one that involved us getting lost again and then I sat out on Day 5.

Anyway, the fourth day of our walk started in Nerola and took us to Monterotondo. I believe it was supposed to be our longest day, covering about 15 miles, but according to Mom’s Apple watch we did about 13 miles. We did not end up completing our route because we got lost again and after adding in a few miles to correct ourselves we realized that the last 4 or so miles would put us at our destination after dark and after our designated dinner time. I was also physically done. I had been hobbling along for a few days pretty well considering the circumstances, but the swelling in my ankle was only getting worse and my poor “healthy” foot was pretty torn up from the blisters. At one point just before we decided that we were not going to make it the rest of the way on foot, I stumbled again because my legs pretty much just gave out. I swear I wish I was being dramatic, but the rest of my family said that they were pretty done for the day too.

The problem was we were still a couple of miles from any town and we couldn’t use our own cell phones to make a call (we had a Wifi-hot spot with us but it only would work to text or Face Time if the receiving end also had an iPhone). So two of us walked up to a winery/home and used their phone to call and ask the hotel if they could come pick us up, which ended up working out.

Castello Orsini Hotel

Even though this was probably my least favorite days of the walk overall, this is one of my favorite memories! We were walking by a peach orchard and saw the farmer harvesting. My cousin and I walked up to him holding out some money and asking if we could buy some. He did not speak English, but waved the money away and just handed us a couple. These were the biggest peaches I have ever seen and they were so good!! It was a really nice, refreshing break and just one of the many examples of the kindness that we experienced throughout the trip. I do not have any pictures, but we also received a handful of apples later in the day. We were walking about an asphalt road and a man drove by with a car FULL of boxes of apples. He stopped all on his own, waved us over and gave us a handful!

For perspective, it really was almost as big as my face!

So about getting lost… I think I mentioned this in my introductory post, but for the most part the guide book we had was very thorough and easy to follow. But it seemed as if every time we came upon a town throughout the day, that is where the directions either got vague or led us astray. Once we were in this little town we had to ask for directions two different times to eventually find the bar that the book mentions. Looking back at the book later, we still had no idea how the book’s directions would have gotten us there.

The only time we got rained on during the walk was while we were waiting alongside a very busy road for my Grampy and cousin to go use the phone at the winery. As many cars sped by I just kept laughing and wondering what those drivers must have thought of this mix-matched group sitting outside a cement factory/yard (?) at dusk in the rain.

Dinner was so welcome that night! We enjoyed the food here (and the wine!), but it was the second of two places that we did not really care for staying at during the walk. It sort of felt like college dorm rooms and there was someone banging on doors in the middle of the night that we were pretty sure was a drunk looking for his room. We were safe but it just was not relaxing.

DAY 5

The fifth day of our walk started in Monterotondo and took us to the Monte Sacro district in Rome. It covered about 12 miles and took us through more farmland and a nature reserve before transitioning to the outer suburbs of Rome.

I actually decided to sit this day out. I knew that I had hit my limit pain and energy-wise and I really wanted to be able to join my family for the sixth and final day. I hated the thought of missing out but looking back after the final day and how hard that still was for me, I know that I made the right decision. So my family took off with my camera in tow again (thanks Mom!) and I got a taxi to take me to our next hotel.

Just to be clear, the remaining pictures in this post, including the ones with my name mark on them were actually taken by my Mom. Again, she did a great job!

We saw and used these watering fountains multiple throughout the week.

Since I got to our next hotel so early, I could not get into my room yet, so after I rested a bit in the lobby I ventured out a bit. Now don’t get me wrong ,I had a wonderful time with my family, but it actually ended up being nice to have a few hours of solo time. For the most part I am out going and an extrovert, but as I have gotten a little older I have learned that I do actually need to have time to myself to recharge. I did not go far since it was technically my rest day but I did find some amazing bacon pizza (seriously I am still thinking about it) and a relaxed outdoor space where I tried the croquettes and a class of my favorite type of white wine (Gewurztraminer).

My family made pretty good timing without me to drag along 🙂 so we all had a bit of time to relax together for the afternoon.

Dinner was at the Ristorante Casa Claudia and was so good! I wish I remembered more about its history. The restaurant sits along the Aniene River near a bridge that originally indicated the entrance to the city. I want to say a restaurant of some sort has always stood here for hundreds of years but do not quote me! I do remember that the restaurant has been owned by the same family for quite a long time. Pizza was their specialty so my Mom and I each got their personal serving size… We switched pies a couple of times, but still were only able to eat the equivalent of one together, partially because we also were not going to miss out on dessert!

Honestly, because of all the walking, most us actually either lost weight or maintained weight on this trip which was nice. Regardless though, in my mind you do not visit a foodie country like Italy and not indulge!

OK, I will be back hopefully tomorrow with the sixth and final day of the walk… then we can move on to the rest of the trip!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

**********

And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Castello Orsini Hotel

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Italy – Exploring Rieti
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 3

**********

Our walk on the third day took us to Nerola where we stayed at the Castello Orsini Hotel, which is a 12th century castle!

This was SO COOL and without a doubt my favorite place we stayed throughout the whole trip. We took so many photos and enjoyed it so much that I decided it needed to have its own post. Unfortunately the lighting was not all that great inside, so even the few I am sharing in this post really do not do it justice. However, the castle does have an Instagram account and they feature some beautiful photos so you should definitely check that out!

In the 12th century, the fiefdom (an estate or territory granted to someone in return for allegiance or service), was granted to the Orsini family, who built the present castle. Since then it changed hands a number of times until the last change in 1939. It was eventually restored and now houses the hotel.

One of the most unique parts was that every private room was so different. Most of them had built-ins added to create more living space since the ceilings were so high. The public spaces were essentially museums and since we got in later than expected the evening before, we took some extra time in the morning to explore a bit. There were lots of balconies and terraces with beautiful views, and my Mom and I eventually found a way to go out on part of the roof. There had been a wedding there a day or two before so we also saw the remnants of that event.

If you are planning a trip to Italy and looking at spending some time outside of the major cities, then I would highly recommend a visit here or something similar.

Most of the rooms had these built-in stairs that led to platforms where most of the beds were in the rooms.

This was a homemade creamy gnocchi with mushroom truffles. Basically it was like really fancy mac and cheese and it was delicious!

From the rooftop.

The views were amazing!

The inner courtyard.

Everywhere they had empty wine bottles, corks and wine glasses incorporated as decoration.

Like I said, the lighting was difficult in some areas, including this area near the kitchen that had this pit of corks. The picture above with the bottles was in the same room so you can kind of see the lighting. I think I took the cork picture in the morning though when the bright colored lights weren’t one or as bright, plus I think this one was with my phone. But the point is, that this was a really fun feature! And my Mom may or may not have snatched a cork from there for me. I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been a bit deal if I had asked, but this makes a better story 🙂

Thanks for stopping by again. I still have about eight or so more posts planned for this trip so stay tuned!

**********

And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Love Letters

Love Letter: To My 18-Year-Old Self

Whenever my birthday rolls around, I always struggle with whether to do a blog post. I typically do a new year’s post and always decide that is enough. But last year I saw this letter to her 18-year-old self-reflecting on the last 10 years, by Design Darling, and knew that it was something I really wanted to do for myself. She says, “it’s a fascinating exercise to recall memories from so many years ago and see which ones feel like they could have happened yesterday, and which ones seem like they happened to a totally different person.” After doing this for myself, I wholeheartedly agree.

**********

Mandy,

At 18, you are getting ready to your senior homecoming dance in a green dress that makes your hair look redder than you care for at the time (but learn to love later). When your acceptance letter to Kansas State University comes in a few weeks, you start to daydream about what college and living so far away from home might be like. You tell everyone that you are “still deciding” because you are scared, but when you visited campus in December you knew deep down that you would be back to stay. It is a fun last year of childhood in the dusty sagebrush town you grew up in and you celebrate graduation with your two best friends with a trip to Hawaii. Your lives all go three very different directions but 10 years later they are still an important part of your life. You experience your first taste of heartbreak over FFA state officer dreams that did not pan out and a boy that you met a little too late. But you will remember him for years to come and always be thankful that he showed you early on what a good guy should be.

At 19, you are two months into your first semester at K-State and while you have been more homesick than you expected, you are finally starting to carve out a new chapter. The scholarship house you are living in is already keeping you busy with activities and new friends. There is one girl who talks more than you and laughs just as loud, and after bonding over goldfish crackers and studying for an animal science exam, she becomes your “person” and a part of almost every story you have worth telling. The two of you are still inseparable to this very day. You are relieved that those ideas you had about what a career in agriculture and communications could look like since you were 10 years old are a possibility and you never look in any other direction. You attend an agriculture leaders conference you randomly saw advertised in an email and are recommended for a job in the grain science department. These two experiences will help shape the path to where your career is now. Also, years later you are going to wish you had listened to Mom and taken care of that broken finger properly. Always listen to your Mom.

At 20, you are so excited to be back at K-State for your sophomore year and it is a year full of lots of fun memories, which include spending almost every weekend cheering on your sports teams and falling in love with red dirt music while two-stepping at Longhorns. You are selected to be on a national leadership team for the student ag leader’s organization that you were introduced to last year. Later you will look back and see this as the most meaningful experience of your college career. Your network is still full of people you met back then, and you are still involved at the alumni level. You take a summer internship that is a great experience, but it teaches you exactly what you do not want to do for the rest of your life and you are grateful for that.

At 21, you are headed into a roller coaster year. You moved out of the scholarship house into a house with your best friends, added a few new ones and probably have a little too much fun – too often – exploring Aggieville. Your first semester on the student ag magazine hones your storytelling and creative skills in a new way that makes you so excited for your career path and you take a summer internship that pushes you outside your comfort zone in a good way. On the other hand, you also doubt yourself a lot this year. There are some conflicts, over-committing and growing pains that test your character. After failing your second class of college, you are put on academic probation and are forced to have a serious talk with yourself and your mentors about turning things around. This is also the year you get bangs and then spend years wondering why you thought they ever looked good. Like I said, this year was a roller coaster, but I promise, you get through it.

At 22, adulthood is rushing at you fast, but you are ready to work hard and finish senior year strong. Some of your best memories all these years later are from living with your two best friends (two of you will stand as co-maids of honor in the third’s wedding someday). Attending K-State was the best decision your 18-year-old self could have ever made and you are forever grateful for the experiences and “K-State Family” it gave you. You decide that the Midwest feels like home now and the day after Christmas you accept your first job as the Director of Communications at the Kansas Pork Association, an entire semester before you officially graduate.

At 23, you are a few months into your “big kid job” in the real world. You quickly realize that working for a farmer-led organization gives you a newfound sense of purpose. Hold on to this feeling for the bad days — it will remind you why you love what you do. There is a lot to learn, but you have a supportive boss and a co-worker who is a pioneer when it comes to modern agriculture and communications, and she teaches you how to hustle. You moved into your own apartment, but you are still living in your college town, so you are learning how to navigate being a young professional while still enjoying time with your college friends. You are a part of three weddings for your closest friends – all in the span of a month. These are women you have shared plenty of tears and laughs with and you know you will want by your side someday, so celebrating them is the highlight of your year.

At 24, you truly love your job, but finally admit to yourself that you are in a rut and know deep down you need to move on to something else, but you are not sure if that means moving home to the Pacific Northwest or somewhere else in Kansas. Then one day you see a post on Facebook about an open position just outside of Washington DC. You go back multiple times throughout the day to read the description and by that night you are calling your parents to tell them that you have a gut feeling that this job was meant just for you. Nine weeks later you have accepted the position, moved to the East Coast and started a new job working for an organization that does export market development for the U.S. wheat industry. Everything about your life changed quickly and the learning curve at the new job is high, but you love the challenge and spend the rest of this year adjusting to your new way of life and exploring your new city.

At 25, you have settled into your job and life in DC and are proud of yourself for being able to trust your gut feeling and being brave enough to follow through on it. (Also, a big shout out to the people in your life that continue to cheer you on.) But you also face some growing pains this year and make some not so great decisions. Living in DC introduces you to so many new experiences, diverse types of people and new ideas, that both challenge your way of thinking and refine who you are at the core. DC has so much to offer, but the harsher reality is making friends in a status-climbing, agenda-driven city is hard, and you struggle to figure out where you fit in. You also start to think seriously about dating (which is even harder in this city!) and decide to try online dating. You have quite a few funny stories and conversations to screenshot and share with your best friends, but none of your dates really amount to much. But keep your head up and have a little faith. You move to a new apartment that is a bit quirky but the perfect space for you and finally find a young adults small group that fits you. Your life will slowly get back into a rhythm that feels more natural.

At 26, you will be closer to 30 than you are 21 and are totally OK with that and looking forward to the next season of life. After 23 years, you and your sister finally get a baby Ego cousin and are absolutely smitten with Sawyer June. You are taking on more responsibilities at work and are recognized with a promotion part way through the year. You travel to Thailand and the Philippines for both work and a vacation and realize you have missed out on not traveling more internationally and promise yourself to make that a priority. Then, just as you decide that online dating might not be for you, a quiet, scruffy guy with soft eyes from Maryland messages you and soon you are spending all your free time together. He thinks it is cute when you ramble on and brings you three different types of mac and cheese when you are sick. You love his work ethic, arguing about Lebron vs. Steph, how easy it is to laugh with him and are empowered by how he makes you see yourself. You fall in love for the very first time and start talking about taking him home with you for Christmas.

At 27, the guy you wanted to introduce to your family decides that the timing just is not right, and you make the heartbreaking decision to part ways. This is the hardest thing you have ever been through and you struggle for longer than you want anyone to realize. You have never been more grateful for the small band of people who saw right through that and held you up and reminded you of who you were until you could see it for yourself again. Early on, you practically force yourself to join a Pure Barre studio out of need for a healthy distraction but are be surprised by how much you love it and how quickly it makes a difference in more ways than one. At work, your industry is in for quite a year of uncertainty on the trade front and you take on the challenge of leading a project for developing a new website. You throw everything you have into this project, and while completely exhausted, you successfully make it to launch day and are proud of what you did. Looking back on this year, you will always think of it as a hard one, but it also had a lot of high highs. You made good on your promise to travel more internationally and take a fun girls trip to London and an incredible family trip to Italy.

Now at 28, you are sincerely surprised at how quickly the past year went by, let alone 10 years since that green dress. You have lived so much in that time, finished growing up and took some big risks. You made some mistakes and got lost a few times but are thankful for a lot of grace. You set and carried out some big goals, started to build a career that gives you purpose, made it through growing pains, saw beautiful sites, experienced falling in love and being heartbroken and found people and places that mean the world to you. You are ready for what is next, with just a few more freckles, and tips and tricks in tow.

But Mandy, before I end this rambling nostalgic saga, I want you to know that the best is always yet to come. Hold on to that. I want you to know that it is OK for others to not understand your goals and decisions, and it is OK for you to change your mind about what you want. I want you to know that you should always strive for humility, but you should never compromise yourself or your values for others’ ideals. I want you to know that you have a one-of-a-kind family and you will be reminded often that others are not so lucky. Nothing is more important than family. I want you to know that a small group of people who inspire you and invest in you are a million times more worth your time than a large group of occasional friends. Invest in meaningful relationships and always show up for the people who show up for you. I want you to keep writing on this blog. Do not worry about what people think, that it does not fit into a certain niche or that you need to take a few breaks. This little space is all yours and it makes you happy. I want you to know that you will never regret hustling for what you want. I want you to know that the world is sometimes cruel and discouraging, but I want you to continue to believe fiercely that it is full of kindness and beauty. And yes, it is OK to believe in cheesy Taylor Swift songs. I want to remind you to stop and be still every now and then, and to not fear feeling things that are not happiness. There is a time and place for everything. I want you to know that you are beautiful, smart, thoughtful, creative, funny and surrounded by people who will tell you so.

IMG_4912

Keep searching for good stories to tell. You have got this. I love you.

Love,
Amanda

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 3

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Italy – Exploring Rieti
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 2

**********

The third day of our self-guided walk started in Poggio Moiano and took us to Nerola. It was “supposed” to cover about 11 miles (more on that in a minute) and took us down from the mountains onto the Tiber Valley plain passing through more farmland and orchards.

Looking back, this was somewhat of a roller coaster day. Overall, I think it was the prettiest day we had as far as views go. But we also had what might have been the two steepest sections of the entire walk. And of course, going up steep inclines usually meant that the way back down was just as steep which most of the time was just as hard. And I say this with very little exaggeration, my right foot, (the healthy, not-sprained one), basically felt like it was on fire the whole day. I thought the day before had gone well considering my sprained ankle, but I completely underestimated what that would do to my other foot, which was covered in more blisters than I had ever experienced at one time while playing sports and dancing growing up.

Oh and… we got lost.

Or more specifically, we missed where we were supposed to veer off for our hotel (the guide book directions didn’t always take us all the way to the front door) and continued on another 3-4 miles and the NEXT day’s route. We had also gotten too spread out as a group, so when we finally all got back in one spot, we were in the next town over and then had to figure out how to catch a bus that would take us back to where we originally supposed to be. It all adds to the adventure I suppose but at the time I was never more happy to see a bed.

This was the view outside of my grandparents room. My Grammy took the picture above earlier in the morning when the fog was still settled and I took the ones below a while later. I felt like this should be part of a Lord of the Rings movie set!

The first stretch leaving Poggio Moiano was so pretty!

There are sheep and Great Pyrenees (guard dogs) in there off to the left, but what I wanted to point out was the bathtubs! We saw this a few different times and assumed that they must use them for water troughs.

Even in another country, my Mom had to pull me away from studying the livestock. This guy and his gals were pretty different from what I am used to.

This field looked plowed and ready to go, but all of the white/light color that you see? Those are rocks!!! We saw this quite a bit in most of the olive tree orchards and I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Me and Mom

My cousins Ginger and Daryl

Aunt Diane, Grampy and Grammy

We stopped in Poggio Corese for some Coke Zero’s and a late lunch. They were actually closing for the afternoon (which a lot of the little towns we passed through did), but stayed open for us, which was VERY appreciated. We seasoned this pasta with a spice called “peperoncino.” It was delicious and I hoping I can find it again here, possibly at the Italian grocery store that is a few blocks from my apartment.

It was a long, but beautiful day. That night we stayed in a 12th century castle and I’ve decided to give that its own blog post because it was just so cool and definitely one of the main highlights of our trip.

I’ll be back in a few days with that post!

**********

And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 2

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Travel Journal: Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Travel Journal: Doors of Italy
Travel Journal: Italy – Exploring Rieti
Travel Journal: Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 1

**********

The second day of our self-guided walk started in Poggio San Lorenzo and took us to Poggio Moiano. It covered about 9 miles, taking us south through unsealed country roads, through the mountains and past lots of orchards, fields and farms.

Most of our breakfasts on the walk were pretty light, consisting of cappuccinos and light bread and pastries. Some of our stops did have continental spreads which usually added in hard boil eggs, yogurt, meats and cheeses.

After resting the day before, my ankle was still really swollen and stiff, but I was determined to join my family again. It was definitely slow most of the time, but once I got going and loosened up a bit it wasn’t as bad. At least my hobbling was consistent 🙂

Our walk first took us through Poggio San Lorenzo, which was a sleepy little town that we stayed outside of the night before. It was interesting to see how each town differed and what remained consistent. They all were made up of earthy, warm colors, with a mix of different stone and bricks. The windows almost always had shutters and there were lots of little balconies, all garnished with greens and flowers.

Ancient Roman walls.

Most of our walk throughout the week took us through farm land. It wasn’t necessarily promoted this way, but after looking at the descriptions of the other walks the company offers, I’d say our could easily be dubbed the “ag tour,” which is obviously right up my alley. We saw hundreds of acres of olive trees, which is a commodity that we don’t know much about so thanks to Google for filling us in 🙂 We also saw quite a few different varieties of grapes, lemons, limes, tomatoes, berries, peaches, apples and various other vegetables.

That is an olive tree orchard above. Some looked prettier like this picture, but most were not this well-manicured.

The yellow and blue marker that you see above were the markers that coordinated with our guide book. Sometimes it was a sticker that looked more like a flag and other times it was painted on rocks, trees and posts.

So there is a version of this picture that is not blurry, but no one is smiling in that one and this one makes me laugh. I was trying to explain to my Aunt that she could still step back further to take the picture but use her fingers to zoom in. I think she finally figured it out but by that time I think I was too worn out to continue smiling and it still ended up blurry 🙂

Anyway this is where we stopped in the town of Monteleone Sabina and rested after a pretty intense climb and found some ice cream.

This home was partially caved in and overgrown with vegetation. I took some video and other pictures of it, but its just not the same. It felt like I was in a different time. My Mom and I hung around for a bit and tried to piece together what the house would have looked like when it was all in one piece.

Our accommodations in Poggio Moiano were one of two that I didn’t care for at all. These were small studio apartments (except I think the one my grandparents stayed in had a few rooms) and functioned more like an AirBnB. They did have kitchenettes which was nice, but they were just a bit strange overall and not very comfortable. However, ironically, the dinner we had here was by far my favorite from the walk. As I mentioned in my summary post, all of our dinners and breakfasts were organized for us. It was prepared by the people who owned the apartments which were right next to their restaurant. We had a round of appetizers, multiple family-style entrees and a selection of desserts. If I remember correctly, nearly everything came from their extended family’s farm and garden, and it was all homemade. They didn’t very much English, but they had a family friend who did speak English serve as our host and shared about each dish as they brought it out. It was all amazing.

They brought us a bottle of both red and white wine, and with that good of a meal, there was no way that I wasn’t trying both. Plus I just walked 9 miles on a sprained ankle through the countryside so I shamelessly told my family that I thought I earned it.

Thanks for tuning in today! I believe I’ll be back on Wednesday with another post.

**********

And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala