Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Pompeii and Naples

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:

Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Exploring Rieti
Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Castello Orsini Hotel
Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Self-Guided Walk Day 6
The Colosseum and Exploring Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
Pompeii and Naples
Venice
Florence

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My portion of the trip was fifteen days and I’ve been asked quite a few times whether that was a good length or not. There is always more that you could fit in with more days, but at the pace we were going, 15 days was good. I’m not sure I would have wanted a longer trip unless we scattered a few lazy days in the schedule. When we were planning the trip and my Grammy suggested we plan this day excursion, our thought was, “we’ll enjoy an easier day of riding in the car after so many days of walking all day long.” And yes, it was a bit of a shorter day distance wise but I’d still say that we were pretty exhausted by the end of it!

On this day we used a service named Viator to book a day excursion. (We used this same service for our island hopping day in Thailand!) We were picked up in our own private passenger van at the front door of where we were staying and they drove us to each of our destinations where our tours and meals were already booked and paid for. We had a driver and an English speaking tour guide that stayed with us throughout the day and we also made pit stops in the morning and again in the afternoon before they dropped us back off at our front door. The tour guide, Anna, was around my age, fun and very good at her job. The price was fair considering what was all included, we always felt safe and overall I couldn’t recommend this service enough! They operate around the world, including in the United States, so I might have to look into what they offer next time I’m visiting a new city.

Pompeii

Our first stop was to Pompeii, which was around a 2 hour trip south of Rome. I was so excited for this tour, but honestly, it was even better than I had anticipated! Once we arrived we were joined by another group of 4 that were doing the same day excursion. Together we had our own tour guide, an older, quirky man, for a 3 hour tour of the site, and though it rained on us a little bit and the uneven footing was not the relief I was hoping for for my ankle, it was such a great experience.

The history of Pompeii is something I remember pretty well from when we studied it in school growing up. Pompeii was an ancient Roman city that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. It was covered so quickly in ash (19 to 23 feet!) that it was preserved for centuries before it was discovered in the 16th century, marking the start of modern archaeology and becoming an unique source of history about that time. Here’s a link for more history.

The city was quickly covered in an estimated 19 to 23 feet of ash and debris. Kind of crazy to think about!

Pompeii was home to an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people. The unique, but saddest part of the eruption was how quickly it took those lives, either from falling debris or asphyxiation, and preserved the bodies.

Doesn’t look much different from today’s wood burning stone ovens!

Ancient stone mills.

A few times the tour guide had pictures was what they think different areas around the city might have looked like back in that time.

Public bath house.

I think the most amazing thing to me was how the art was preserved.

The site is still an ongoing archaeological site. These people were literally piecing the floors back together! I hate puzzles so this is crazy to me!

I would highly recommend making this tour part of any travel plans to Italy, especially for families! I know I first learned about Pompeii in elementary school and how cool would it be to visit at that age!

Bosco de’ Medici Winery

After Pompeii, we met back up with our driver and guide for lunch. Now all my Grammy had told me was that our lunch was included for the day, but she didn’t tell that it was going to be at a winery!!

I obviously love wine, but back in college I took a wine tasting class as an elective and ever since I’ve also been really interested in wine culture, food pairing and production. Going to a winery was the one main things that I thought was missing from our travel plans so this was a pleasant surprise.

Everything about our visit was wonderful. The winery, Bosco de’ Medici, also included a nearby resort, but our location was small and quaint. Our tour guide told us that the high level of ash in the soil created very unique flavors in the food and wine produced in the area, and I’d agree that everything we tried was wonderful. I chose my favorite wine from the tasting and bought a bottle to bring home with me and save for a special occasion.

Naples

Our last stop of the day was a quick visit to Naples along the Almafi Coast.

The company that we used for our walking tour also had a route along the coastline that we almost chose to do instead. My grandparents have had this area on their bucket list for a while and I’m sure that they will try to make it back for a longer visit.

Mt. Vesuvius

Coffee break.

Castle Nuovo.

Piazza del Plebiscito.

We had so much fun on this day trip!

Thanks for stopping by! I’ll be back soon again with my LAST TWO posts!

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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

Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum

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:

Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Exploring Rieti
Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Castello Orsini Hotel
Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Self-Guided Walk Day 6
The Colosseum and Exploring Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
Pompeii and Naples
Venice
Florence

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Hey friends, I’ve been busy with a few back-to-back work trips and then the holiday, so I had to take a break from sharing my trip to Italy. But I am back and ready to go with my last couple of posts!

I left off sharing part one of our time in Rome. Other than the afternoon we arrived, we had one full-day in Rome for exploring and an additional morning.

My favorite part of our time in Rome was the Basilica. I am not Catholic, but I love the history, architecture and art! This was probably my hardest group of pictures from the whole trip to sort through because I took SO MANY.

We knew we wanted to go and have enough time to enjoy it so we got there right as it was opening and virtually did not have to wait in line at all! We were so glad that we did because by the time we left about 2 hours later, the line wrapped around the entire square. It is free to go in but there was a small fee if you wanted to take the elevator to the base of the dome instead of the stairs, and with a bum ankle after a days of walking I took that option without a second thought.

The Basilica’s history is a bit complicated so instead of trying to summarize it, I’m just going to include a great link here 🙂

As we were walking up to the entrance I turned to my cousin and asked if he recognized what music was playing over the loud speakers… it was the theme song from the Rocky movies, who of course is also known as the Italian Stallion. We thought that was pretty funny.

The first part of the trek up via elevator or stairs takes you to the base of the dome so you can see the dome’s artwork up close and also see down. I’ve always loved history and have a strong appreciation for art so this is the kind of tourist stuff that I love. It all was absolutely beautiful.

The next part of the trek up takes you to the top of the dome and that part was not easy! First, you wind up around the dome so as you get higher you are at a slant, and then the final part is a very tight, winding stair case. Plus there is no ventilation or moving air, so if you are claustrophobic or have asthma, it might not be for you. It made me a little nauseous.

But the views were SO WORTH IT. The top takes you outside and gives you a 360 view of the Vatican City and Rome.

For reference, in this picture above, the highest point you can go to is right below where the columns are near the top!

Once you visit the top, it brings you down to roof before you go the rest of the way down to walk through the inside. These are the back of the statues that you can see in my first couple of pictures from the ground.

Let me just say that the few pictures of the inside here to not do it justice for how vast and beautiful it is. Again, I am not Catholic, but I was in awe of the Basilica and how almost peaceful it was inside, despite the large crowd.

I highly recommend making this a part of your itinerary on a trip to Rome.

Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museum is a separate experience from visiting the Basilica and one that does have a cost. I can’t remember what we paid, but this was another case where we decided to pay a little more to “skip the line,” mostly because that was the only way we were going to get in. We didn’t know that on Sundays, which was our main full day for exploring Rome, the museum is only open on the last Sunday of the month. We already had other set plans for Monday, so before leaving Rome on Tuesday, we made a quick stop there in the morning.

This was because the Vatican Museum is home to the Sistine Chapel – most famous for its ceiling, painted by Michelangelo – and was near the top of my bucket list to see. I just couldn’t bear being so close and not making it happen. Thankfully my family agreed and we made it work. We did have a little time to enjoy a few other exhibits, but I didn’t take that many pictures because either the lighting wasn’t great or it was too crowded.

There isn’t any photography allowed in the Sistine Chapel and I actually appreciate that. Mostly of course because it forces people to actually just take it all in, and also because photography flashes and the wrong kind of light can actually affect the paint.

The Sistine Chapel was absolutely incredible, and even more amazing to think that Michelangelo didn’t even consider painting to be his top trade. It was super crowded but I tried to work through it as slowly as I could and just enjoy it. It was interesting to see what parts of the bible I could identify easily. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up buying a history book on it for my coffee table!

Alright, I’ll be back soon with my posts on the others cities we visited. For those who have been following along with each post, thanks for your patience!

Thanks for stopping by!

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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 – 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:

Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Exploring Rieti
Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Castello Orsini Hotel
Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Self-Guided Walk Day 6
The Colosseum and Exploring Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
Pompeii and Naples
Venice
Florence

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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.

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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