Italy has always been a country I absolutely had to visit. I love everything about Italian food, from olive oil to wine and everything in between. Food and history, again, was the inspiration behind this trip. I back packed with my husband from Rome, to Pisa, to Florence, to Venice, to Milan. Going to Italy this time of year was cold, but had hardly any tourists. For me, that was well worth it. Experiencing Italy without any herds of people made the experience that much better. One valuable lesson I am learning with the more I travel is to go on the "off season". It costs less, has less tourists, and you get to see the "real" city/country. The only thing you need in Italy is your passport, back pack, and Lonely Planet: Italy. What an amazing book with fabulous ideas. The Lonely Planet series, to me and my husband (who is in the travel industry) is the most useful and interesting travel guide.
I was actually very shocked by Rome. Rome is an iconic city. It was the capital of the Roman Empire which once ruled the entire known world. The Colosseum is here, as well as the Trevi Fountain. Rome is filled with old architecture and history is just around every corner. However, there was graffiti everywhere! I was shocked how the Italians didn't seem to mind all the graffiti.
After my initial shock, I started enjoying myself, being lost in Rome. We had an adorable tiny little hotel. Very rustic. Our breakfast there was amazing. Cold cut salamis, cheeses, and fresh espressos and cappuccinos made fresh to order. It was a great way to start our day. When in Rome, eat like a king! Jayda and I were determined to get some good Rustic Roman Pizza.
Pizza in Rome is unlike any other in Italy. It is on a hard, crusty, bread crust. It is served in a napkin and is perfect "to go" food. It is cut in half, folded together and it looks like a big square sandwich after it has been folded over; ready to eat. Jayda and I did a lot of research before we left, the hunt for the best Roman Pizza place ever.
We knew we found the Best Pizza place when we found a hole in the wall with a massive line out the door filled with Italians. This was found after much wandering around looking at a map almost blindly. It was well worth the long unknown journey! Also, waiting in that long line was worth it. The pizza in Rome was truly fantastic. Definitely different that the Napoli pizza or the New York Pizza, but an amazing, crusty, delightful experience. (another Lonely Planet recommendation!)
|Roma Castel San Angelo|
Rome has so much to offer, so much history, so much food, but you cannot miss going to Rome Castel San Angelo; the best view in Town.
|Jayda with the Leaning Tower of Pisa|
The city Pisa, in general, has nothing to offer than the leaning tower of Pisa.
The Leaning Tower was stunning. It is such an iconic piece of architecture, but it was so fun taking funny photos with it.
The tower is not just leaning, but sinking! Most buildings in Pisa actually are leaning like that due to the soil the city lays on. We stayed in Pisa for an hour or two, had a wander, then jumped back on the train to get to Florence.
Where do I even begin? The most beautiful city in the world? I was stunned by its beauty and intimacy. Florence is a large city, but feels like home. Cobblestone streets. Old buildings. Cafe's everywhere. In Florence, it was even more of a foodie city than Rome. Rome was for the sights, Florence was for the food, gelato and espresso.
Jayda and I went every morning to the same cafe and would watch the Italians take there shots of espresso, then go on to work. They literally drank espresso like they were shots of tequila! I was in shock. I couldn't bring myself to do that. I was too much in love with the espresso, that didn't even need sugar! I had to sip it slowly, and embrace all its flavour. I knew I must have looked very much like a crazy tourist, taking such a long time to drink such a small drink. The espresso was something that deserved a lot of attention and demanded to be appreciated. I was a little bit in love.
I know I always go on about the best things I have ever had in each city. Paris, best Creme Brule I have ever had. Italy, more specifically, Florence, best pasta dish I ever had. Jayda and I went to a lovely little Restaurant off a side street in the main Piaza in Florence. We almost walked right by it, that's how unseen it was. It was called L'Osteria di Giovanni.
For dessert, I just had another glass of wine. I didn't want dessert, I wanted to contemplate the delicious pasta I just had. For most people, passing up dessert is no big deal, for me, I ALWAYS want dessert. This dish was so delicious, nothing would compare after eating it. Anything after just would not live up to the standards of that pasta dish. I honestly can say that I never have eaten anything that was so delicious, I didn't need to eat any dessert after; until I went to Florence.
Florence is a perfect place to go with your significant someone. Just being in the city is wonderful and romantic. After dinner Jayda and I wandered the dimly lit streets of Florence, then along the river back to our hotel. It was beautiful and a great way to end the night.
The most exhilarating thing we did was definitely climb the top of the Duomo. We weren't going to do it, as it was raining and I was exhausted from sight seeing all day, and it was freezing! All I wanted to do was go into another cafe and eat and drink wine or espresso. However, Jayda really wanted to go. So I gave in.
|Climbing the spiral staircase to the Duomo.|
It was a tiny tiny little spiral staircase without any hand rails and steep stairs. The only warning we saw was before we went up, there was a sign to say it was a hard climb and no one elderly or ill should do this climb. What an understatement! No one who has not been the gym in over 2 weeks would struggle! Jayda and I on two or three occasions stopped to catch out breath... and we thought we were in shape!
After about a 20 minute climb through the spiral stair well and hall ways, we came out onto a deck. Inside the Duomo (church). We were right under the ceiling with the beautiful mural. In every church I have ever been inside on my travels, I have wanted to get a first hand look at the mural, but was never able to get that high up.
Well, here was my opportunity. It was so stunning. A mural of life and death, heaven and hell, good and evil. It was a true battle. We spend a good 15 minutes or so just taking it all in. Also, trying to contemplate how people even painted it over 150 years ago. Looking down was a sure death fall of about 7 stories high (or more!). Jayda had a look at his watch, and it was almost sun set. So we continued our journey to the top to try to catch the sunset on the top of the Duomo.
The trecherous trek continued. It was so fun just climbing up and through the Duomo, imagining Catholic Priests wandering around lighting candles in their robes and trying to get around.
Instead of being able to enjoy this view, the first thing I had to deal with was my husband. He stood there smiling with his goofy grin. Then said, "I told you so"...and boy, he sure did!
I couldn't believe I wasn't going to climb the Duomo because I was cold. I honestly just couldn't believe it. It was the first time my husband was able to claim that he was "right" about something. It also was the first time I had to agree that he was right about something too; which I obviously am thankful for... I just can't let him know that!
That was our last and best day in Florence, I was so sad to go.
Venice is truly a floating city. It was so exciting to finally be in Venice! I was sad to leave Florence, but I was so happy to be at this gorgeous city on the water. Also, we were there in winter. Which meant that we got to stroll through all the canals in the winter fog. It gave it an almost eery intimate feel to the city.
Our hotel was across the main canal, so every morning and every night we got a panaroamic sky line view of the city. As we were going to be in Venice over New Years, we decided to splurge and stay at the Molino Stucky Hilton. A fabulous hotel for a fabulous city. It was a fun place to stay at because we had to take a ferry over to the main city every day as well. I love being on the water and everywhere you were in Venice made you feel like you were floating on the Sea. Venice is quite small, so we got all the sights done in one day. Which was nice because we got to just relax and take in its beauty the next few days we were there.
Venice is beautiful and unlike anywhere else I have ever been. There are no cars in Venice, as they are not allowed. The taxi's were boats on the water, ironically enough ,called water taxis. It was unlike anything I have seen. I was envious of the people who lived here, as they got to enjoy living on water. It seemed like if one lived in Venice, you couldn't help but feel you were on a permanent holiday.
Oh Milan.... all I have to say is.... let' s just summarize my trip instead!
Rome was an excellent way to start Italy. History, History, History! Just blows you away. Florence and Venice definitely were the stars of the show. Florence stole my heart, so its hard to compare it to the other cities now. Florence is just simply fantastic. Venice is gorgeous intrigued me as it floated on top of the sea.
Milan, is not even worth talking about. What a waste of 2 days. I wish we didn't come here. Nothing worth seeing. Fashion capital of the world? This literally has to be a joke! Such an ugly city, nothing fashionable or gorgeous about it. Florence and Rome is where I saw amazing done up Italians with amazing shopping, in a gorgeous city. Milan, such a disappointing way to end an amazing trip.
My advise, skip Milan and spend more time in either Venice, Florence, or Rome when visiting Italy.
Italy was fabulous and fantastic in Winter. It didn't have the blooming sunflowers or hot sun, but as it was the "off season" I felt like I had it all to my own. I wouldn't have done it any other way.