Italy – What a fantastic place. Every region is unique, no two are the same. I flew to Venice, took a train to Florence, then another train to Rome. It was a dream come true vacation. The food was amazing, the scenery was breathtaking and the people were wonderful. Before the trip, I did get some ‘Learn to speak Italian’ tapes and I listened and repeated back over and over again, however, I still couldn’t speak or understand Italian when I got there. To my surprise, that was no concern, almost everyone speaks English, so I was able to communicate without any problem. There was nothing on the trip that didn’t live up to my expectations. It was amazing!!!!
The left picture is the Grand Canal. It is so amazing to watch the city run on boats. Of course, there are busses (Vaporetto) and taxi’s, but we also saw a ‘moving’ boat loaded with the contents of a home, and we saw supplies being delivered to all the stores. There is nothing like it anywhere. We used the Vaporetto to explore the city. The middle picture is of St. Mark’s Basilica. This is a beautiful church. We were lucky enough to attend Sunday Mass here during our trip. The right picture is of the streets of Venice. You can wonder around for hours. There are little shops and restaurants along the way that are quaint and the people are extremely friendly. Walking through the streets of Venice was one of my favorite things to do. If you get lost, just ask for help and you will always find someone to get you back to the Grand Canal. Now, when you come to Venice, you must go to Harry’s Bar and have a Bellini. It is a tradition to go to Harry’s Bar. It is a little pricey, but you will enjoy the atmosphere. Here are some more pics of Venice.
The picture on the left is the Bridge of sighs. This bridge connects the prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. The reason it is called the Bridge of Sighs is because prisoners would sigh at their final view of Venice through the window before being taken to their cells.
The middle picture is the Rialto Bridge. You can get from one side to the other of the grand canal by walking across this bridge. Inside, it is filled with small shops that sell jewelry, linens, Murano glass and lots of touristy items. The picture on the right is a Gondola ride through the streets of Venice.
There is so much to be said about Florence. It is so diverse, there is the Uffizi Gallery with an unbelievable amount of artwork. Even if you don’t know anything about art, and I don’t know much, you will appreciate the paintings in this gallery. The picture on the left, Il Duomo is the largest church in Florence. You can climb to the top and enjoy the breathtaking view of the city. The picture on the right is the Ponte Vecchio. The Arno river runs underneath it. This is where you would come to buy gold jewelry. The middle picture is an outdoor market where you can buy leather goods, silk scarves and wool throws. I am sure that there were more things there, but that is what I bought. Gorgeous leather handbags and luggage, it was amazing. Now, lets talk about the food in Florence. First of all, Bistecca alla Florentina. It is made from the Chianina breed of cattle which are prized for their tenderness and flavor. We had the Bistecca in a restaurant called Trattoria Sostanza. This is one of the oldest restaurants in Florence, and it is fantastic. The steak was done to perfection. I can’t wait to go back there.
Both the above pictures are from Tuscany. The day we went to Tuscany, we hired a driver to take us around to all the sites. This worked out really well. The driver was very friendly and nice. We have recommended him to friends and family who have taken trips to Florence since we came back. He brought us to Chianti where we had a private tasting at Rocca delle Macie winery. What a great experience. We then went to San Gimignano which is a Provence near Siena. We bought some hand made ceramics here. There were small shops with linens, silver and lots of ceramic bowls, dinnerware and anything else you could think of.
Rome is magnificent. There is so much to see in this city, you must give yourself at least 3 days. You could probably do it in 2, but you will be going from morning until night. I was particularly amazed with the ruins in Rome. Naturally, the Roman Forum is full of them. You can buy books that show you what Rome looked like when it was all built up. When you look over the forum now, with the pictures of what used to be there, you can definitely see where the buildings were. The picture to the left is the Arch of Constantine. This was build in the year 312 to celebrate Constantine’s victory over Maxentius. It is still a beautiful sight. The ruins in the middle picture were ones that we just happen when we were walking around the city. There was some construction fences around and when we looked inside, it was these beautiful ruins that had been unearthed. The picture on the right is the Roman Forum. It is so impressive when you are there to know that there was once a full city there. Amazing.
The picture to the left is the Fountain of Trevi. There is a time honored custom to throw coins in the fountain to guarantee return to this city. In the middle, is the Colosseum. This is one of the most famous attractions in the world. I remember learning about this in school, my children learning about it and now my granddaughter wanted to see pictures of it. It is breathtaking. The colosseum was completed in year 80. It held 50,000 spectators. Typically, there were contest between gladiators and animals. Today, it shows the remains of depreciation, nature and various earthquakes as well as people. What is so interesting when you are there, is the floor has been removed so you are able to see all the different rooms and tunnels below. You can picture where the different opponents were kept. The picture to the right is The Pantheon. This is the best preserved Roman temple in the city. It was build in 27 B.C in honor of the gods. It was destroyed by fire, then rebuilt between 110 and 125 A.D. The building is circular with niches around the walls for different gods. The ceiling is built of squares all put together in a dome formation. In the center, there is an opening where light comes in and moves around the interior.
Vatican City is an independent state whose sovereign head is the Pope. The top left picture is St. Peter’s Basilica. The second picture is one of the Vatican City guards. And the third picture is the inside of the Basilica. From top to bottom, side to side, there is the most impressive artwork and sculptures that I have ever seen. When you enter the basilica, to the right is the Pieta by Michelangelo. It is breathtaking. There are all smaller chapels along both sides, then the main alter in front. This is the most grandiose building with the marble floors, columns and walls. Sculptures everywhere and St. Peter’s chair in the front. You will spend at least an hour in the basilica itself. There is quite a bit more to see here with the Vatican Crypts, Vatican Library, Vatican Museums, an enormous array of artwork by the best artists in the world before getting to The Sistine Chapel.
As far as the food goes in Rome, they love pasta here. Pasta with vegetables and cream sauce. We went to the original Alfredo’s of Rome to have authentic Fettuccine Alfredo. There are pictures on the walls of actors, politicians and famous athletes that have come there to eat the pasta. They make it right in front of you and it is delicious. Fettuccine pasta, grated cheese and butter. That’s it. Other dishes you will find here is Bucatini alla Matriciana which is pasta in a tomato, wild boar an onion sauce. Spaghetti alla Carbonara and saltimbocca are also popular in Rome. You can also get lots of dishes with artichokes and you will find zucchini flowers on the menu when in season. There wasn’t one meal that we had that didn’t wow us. If you are looking to go the Europe, I would definitely recommend Italy. You won’t be disappointed.