Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Florence

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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Well friends, this is it! My last post from this amazing trip! It took a little longer to share everything than I wanted it to, but regardless, I am so happy that I’ve created this platform that continues to serve as my own creative outlet and a way to stay connected with my family and friends. Thank you for tuning in!

The last stop on our trip was Florence, which we got to on a quick train ride to Venice. I will say that our train experience was pretty good. They are comfy enough (more than a plane in my opinion) and each time we needed to buy tickets we were able to find someone to help us make sure we were getting the right ones.

Now when people ask me how I enjoyed Florence, the first thing I tell them is that Florence didn’t get a fair chance to impress us. As the last stop on our 15 day trip, we were all just a little worn out, probably a little tired of each other and I was definitely so ready to be done walking around on a sprained ankle. But other than our own circumstances, Florence was beautiful and I want chance to visit it with fresh eyes again someday.

We covered a lot of the country and it was so interesting to see what made each city and region unique. Florence is home to some of the world’s most recognizable Renaissance art and architecture, and moves at a different pace than Rome or even Venice. I probably enjoyed the architecture most here and all of the warm Tuscan colors.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo.

The first day we arrived in the late morning and after making a beeline for some food, we spent the rest of the day mostly just wandering around the city. My two cousins were taking off the next morning a day earlier than the rest of us so we wanted to make sure that they got a quick taste of the city. I mentioned way back in one of my first posts that we ate gelato every day and I think we all agreed that the best gelato we found was in Florence.

On our one full day, after my cousins left, we decided to listen to our feet and got tickets for the Hop Off/Hop On bus. I’m so glad we did this. There was two different loops around the city that you could choose from, or even jump back and forth from at the few places where they intersected. If you chose to hop off, another bus would come about every 30 minutes. While you were on the bus there were headphones and a recorded tour guide to tune in to. I thought this service was a great option for us and other than one time when we got cut in line and then kicked off the bus because it was full, it was a positive experience.

One leg of the bus ride took us out of Florence and to a small hillside town Fiesole, where we decided to hop off and explore for a while and grab lunch.

This bridge is named the Ponte Vecchio. Until 1218, it was the only bridge in Florence that crossed the Arno River. It is known for having shops built along it, which traditionally was much more common than it is now. Originally this shops were occupied by butchers, but now it houses mostly jewelry and art.

One last piece of Italian pizza!

The Piazzale Michelangelo, is a 19th-century piazza with a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David and a beautiful panoramic views over the city. We considered going into the museum that houses the real statue of David but decided that we were done with lines so we thought the replica with a view of the city was a good alternative.

After Florence, we headed back to Rome where I hopped on a flight back to the United States. The remaining members of my family actually had one more day in Rome where they took a tour of the Catacombs!

Well that’s it friends! This was such an amazing trip and one that I’ll always be so thankful that I got to share with my family. I have loved sharing it here with you on my blog, so thanks to everyone who stopped by! If you are planning a trip to Italy or even just considering one I would be happy to answer any questions and share more recommendations.

Until next time, arrivederci!

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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 – Venice

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

**********

After our stay in Rome, our next stop was Venice!

Our original plan was to take the train but that kind of all changed on the fly. Since there was 7 of us, we were having trouble arranging transportation to from where we were staying to the train station. We still had the business card from the car service that had taken us from the airport to Rieti when we first arrived, so we finally called them up to take us the train station and along the way, jokingly said it would be nice if they could just drive us the whole way. Well apparently the joke was on us, but the driver responded quickly that another man could actually do that and after quick deliberation we were on our way via car!

Overall Venice was my favorite city! I knew within a few short hours that it was definitely a place that I want to visit again and take more time to just relax and explore there. It’s old, romantic, earthy and in a strange way, kind of homey and familiar. I felt like I was walking through a book — a story that was just so fascinating to me.

Once again, we used VRBO to book a small apartment to stay in, which we had to go on quite the excursion to find, including a map, picture ques and trying to navigate the water taxi routes in the dark. Thanks to the young Italian women Sabrina for taking pity on us and helping out!

Our time here was pretty laid back. We explored, did a little bit of shopping (hello gorgeous leather purse!) continued to eat amazing food and eventually became master’s of the water taxi, including one long ride along most of the main route.

Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square)

The one thing from my Pinterest research for this trip that I was determined to do was visit the Libreria Acqua Alta.

This self-proclaimed “most beautiful bookstore in the world” routinely floods, so most of its contents are in bathtubs, waterproof bins and even a gondola that can float when necessary. I have a deep love for bookstores and libraries, especially ones that are a bit quirky, so the more research I did on it, the more I knew we had to go. My Grammy and I are one in the same, and luckily the rest of my family obliged.

After a few mistakes and studying the maps, I figured that navigating the water taxi system is very similar to the DC Metro or New York Subway.

Venice, you are magical, and I will definitely be back someday. Thanks for having us!

Thanks for stopping by again! I’ll be back in the next day or two with my last travel post for this trip!

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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 – 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

**********

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

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:

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

**********

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!

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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 – 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:

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

**********

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!

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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