How to pack for a 10 day trip to Italy – in a carry-on!

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So, I went back and forth with this. Do I check a bag, or do I just bite the bullet and carry-on? I started thinking about myself and how I would handle having to carry a large bag to multiple places (we didn’t stay more than 2 nights in the same place), and I realized how annoyed I would become with having to lug a huge bag around. So, I decided I would pack 10 days worth of clothing in a 20 inch carry-on bag.

How did I do it? Easy (so I thought)! If anyone knows me, they know that I research and prepare and plan – almost to a fault. So, as you can imagine I read a number of travel blogs and endlessly searched Pinterest for tips and tricks.

I started with 4 basic items: 3 pairs of pants (1 camel denim, 1 black denim, and 1 dark blue denim) and one black cotton dress.

I then added one bulky, comfy sweater, a denim button-up I wore this as a layer on the plane – so it was not added to the carry-on, 2 long sleeved shirts (one striped, and one dusty pink for a little bit of color), one long gray hooded cardigan and one nice black blouse to wear out at night.

It may sound crazy, but with all of these items I was able to put together 9 outfits! See below for the different combinations:

I did however run into some problems. I didn’t pack enough underwear. I know, I know, how the heck did I organize everything else and not include that? Well, simple…I was doing laundry before the trip and forgot to add a few more pairs to my suitcase. Mistakes happen, but underwear are also very easy to purchase, which is what I did 🙂

In the end I had to purchase a small carry-on bag for 20 euros to pack all of my souvenirs – and ended up checking my suitcase on the flight back. I thought that worked out perfectly and I had breakables in the carry-on I had purchased so it was easier for me to control in that sense. Plus, it was super cute:

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As for accessories, I purchased a really cute beanie with a pom pom at a store in downtown Livermore, adorable nicely lined gloves from Anthropologie, a beautiful blanket scarf I purchased from Etsy (and it doubled as a great blanket on the plane!), and I wore my rain coat from Banana Republic the entire trip. It was pretty lightweight, but I think it was the perfect coat since you needed to wear layers – cold outside, and then transitioning to blistering hot inside. I put together a collage of the accessories mentioned above – these are not exactly what I took but similar.

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For shoes, I packed my Tom’s tennis shoes, my Ralph Lauren brown flat boots, and for a little bit of height – and for going out at night – I packed my over the knee suede boots made by Dolce Vita (purchased via Nordstrom Rack online).

Hopefully this was helpful information. I know that when I was looking for tips and tricks resources such as the one I’m providing were super helpful!

Until next time –

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Our Italian Itinerary: Firenze, Roma, Pisa, Venice, Toscana…

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I’ve had a few of my readers ask for some of the locations, attractions, and Airbnbs that we used so I thought I would share our itinerary, where we stayed, how we got around etc.

Flights were booked through http://www.exploretrip.com. We were able to secure flights via Finnish Air, operated by British Airways, for under $800. We flew out of SFO landed in Heathrow, and then caught flight to Bologna. British Airways was fantastic. I have friends who didn’t have great experiences with them, but Kelly and I were more than happy with their service.

Getting to Stephanie’s apartment in Firenze (Florence): We had 2 options – take either the bus or train to Firenze S.M.N Train station:

Bus info: http://www.appenninoshuttle.it/: 20 euros or 25 euros onboard direct

NTrain info: First take bus to Bologna Centrale Station – cost is 6 euros, then take Trenitalia to Firenze S.M.N – Cost between 10-15 euros

Train info: http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en

Stephanie met us at the train station – since it was about 7:30pm we walked around Florence a bit, grabbed dinner and drinks.

Day 1:

  • Visit Accademia Museum – Booked for 10am (online)
  • Mercato Centrale for lunch – SO cool – I definitely recommend this, and for some reason it made me feel like I was in Seattle. It just had the vibe.
  • Climb the Duomo – booked for 1:30PM climb – take water and make sure you have your walking shoes on!
  • Walk around Firenze some more
  • Aperitivo – Drinks and a light buffet at Moyo: 10 euros (we did this twice! It was perfect)
  • Spend the night in Firenze

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Day 2

Day 3

  • Check out Montepulciano some more little vilalges and visit Volterra
  • Drive back to Florence for a 5pm rental car return

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Day 4

  • Depart for Venice by train (2.5 hour ride)
  • Purchased tickets online (via Italo)
  • St. Mark’s Basilica
  • Gondola ride – approximately 40 euros – plus tip
  • More sight seeing around Venice and St. Mark’s Square
  • Shopping
  • Took the last train back to Florence

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Day 5

  • Take early train to Rome (1.5 hour ride)
  • Purchased train tickets online (via Italo)
  • Booked Airbnb for two nights: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2751075
  • Vatican Museum – purchase tickets ahead of time on the Vatican Museum’s website: 45 euros – you definitely want to purchase ahead of time to avoid the long lines for non ticket holders.
  • The Vatican Museum took up most of our first day in Rome. Grabbed some dinner, bought some wine at the little store below our apartment, and called it a night.

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Day 6

  • Colosseum first thing in the morning. We purchased the Colosseum tickets at the Colosseum, which also included the Roman Forum.
  • Toured the Colosseum, then met up with Stephanie and Diana for a walking tour of Rome, which included: Pantheon, Trevi Fountain etc. These tours are “free” but a generous tip is expected at the end of the tour.romanforum2

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Day 7

  • Depart Rome in the early morning to head back to Florence
  • We were all so tired when we returned to Florence, we decided to take a nap, which turned more into a 4 hour nap, then got up to find something to eat, walked around the leather market and purchased gifts for our families and friends. This was basically our only down time – but was much needed and I recommend you build some of that into your itinerary.

Day 8

  • Depart for Pisa.
  • You really only need a couple of hours in Pisa so we purchased our train tickets at the station and took the 1.5 hour train ride to Pisa.
  • Checked out the leaning tour, grabbed some food and headed back to Florence via train.

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Day 9

  • This day was used to finish up any shopping we still wanted to do. Walk around the leather market some more, and we climbed to the top of the Piazzale Michelangelo to check out the beautiful nighttime view (I look like I’m in front of a green screen – but I promise I’m not!)
  • Also, we decided to take a walking tour of Florence, which concentrated on the Medici family. It was quite interesting, and again it was “free” but a  generous tip was expected at the end.

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Day 10

Headed home 😦 We took the bus directly to the airport (purchased the tickets the day before at the train station on our way back from Pisa)

Tip of advice for traveling back from Heathrow: We caught a flight from Bologna to Heathrow, and had about a 1.5 hour layover. THAT IS NOT ENOUGH TIME! Kelly and I almost missed our connecting flight – we literally had 7 minutes to get through security and clear to the other side of the airport. Going forward, I would not feel comfortable having anything less than 2 hours between flights.

I hope this helps! As you can see, we packed A LOT into 9 days, but it was well worth it! I think we saw the most out of the fewest number of days.

I wish you happy travels!!

Ciao!

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Italy Adventures: Tuscany Edition

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Dear readers – this is my last “Italy Adventures” blog post…but have no fear (wipe your tears) there are always more adventures around the corner that I’ll be excited to share with you, so for now here is the final edition – Tuscany style!

I have to be honest, when I thought of Italy I didn’t really think of Tuscany. Don’t ask me why – I mean, I’m a huge wine lover etc. but it wasn’t at the top of my list. However, a couple of the girls were interested in visiting Tuscany so we added it to the itinerary. I would say the only downfall to this Tuscany trip was that many of the little towns/villages we visited were essentially closed for holiday. It would have been nice to see the bustling little towns and have the ability to walk into many of the wine shops and cute little stores but the ones that we were able to visit were definitely not a disappointment.

We decided to rent a car and drive up to the Tuscany/Siena region. It was approximately a little of an hour drive through the beautiful countryside. Our first stop was in San Gimigniano in Siena. Holy smokes it was cold there! But it was absolutely beautiful. We walked around the little town and climbed to the top of buildings to take in the countryside view. It really was stunning (despite our chattering teeth). Once we wrapped up there we hopped in the car and drove to Montepulciano where we found it was also quiet and a lot of shops were closed up, however we did find a yummy place to eat where I think I ordered the most beautiful raviolis I’ve ever seen! We walked around there a bit more, had some espresso, and hopped back in the car as we had probably about another 1 hour long drive to our Airbnb.

We definitely got a little lost on our way to our Airbnb – I think mainly because the little cottage we were staying in was well off the beaten path, and not well marked. We had to go down a narrow gravel road (as the sun was setting – we were hoping to get there before it was dark), then drive onto someone’s property (of whom we hoped was going to be the Airbnb host). I had received correspondence from the host letting me know that she was going to be at university when we would be checking in, but that her Dad would help get us settled. She then said that he doesn’t know any English, but that he was very friendly…uh oh. We drove onto the property and were promptly met with a little dog that was barking at us like crazy and trying to jump into the car through the driver side window. I had no clue who I was supposed to be looking for and this little old lady comes out to see what all the commotion is about with the dog, sees our car and then takes off back into the house. We were all just sitting there trying to figure out what our next move should be.

Eventually a man walks out – who we assumed must be our host’s dad. He walks up to the car and we are trying to tell him we are there to check into our Airbnb. Nothing is triggering in terms of word recognition – Stephanie is having a hard time communicating with him (and she knows more Italian than all of us combined!) and Kelly had been getting by fairly well on this trip since she knows Spanish fluently – but even that wasn’t really working…so then we say his daughter’s name, Sabrina. Ding! Full recognition and now he knows why we are there. So he guides us to the cutest little cottage, on the prettiest winery we’ve ever seen!

We get inside and he starts showing us where everything is and how it all works. Then we ask him where the nearest store is – he pulls out a map and shows us where to go. He takes our passports to make a copy – he’s gone for a few minutes and returns with wine he has made there on the winery! It was the sweetest gesture. We thanked him and then headed out for the store. We stocked up on meat and wine and cheese and some frozen pizzas (hah!) seems funny now but we were only staying one night. When we returned we all settled in and started cooking and opening wine and just having a nice relaxing evening.

A little while later Sabrina and her Dad come by to make sure we are settled and have everything we need. They truly were the kindest Airbnb hosts. She told us to take our time leaving in the morning – which was nice to not have a set check-out time, and then her Dad said something to her in Italian – she smiles and says, “My Dad wanted me to tell you that white and red wine don’t mix well together.” We all started laughing! Her dad had brought us his homemade red wine and we had purchased a couple of bottles of white while we were at the store. We promptly told him we were pros and we could handle both (which we did). He smiled, and shrugged. We were sure to leave him a nice note about how much we loved his wine before we left the next morning – because it really was absolutely delicious. After they left we settled in and just had a night full of laughs and good conversation.

When we rented the car there was this issue with the car not having snow chains. Apparently, in Italy all rental cars need to have snow chains. I was thinking to myself that I know it’s freaking cold, but really snow chains? Well, we didn’t get snowed in, but we definitely saw snow! We woke up the next morning to see that mother nature had dumped snow all over the vineyard. I had never really seen a snow covered vineyard, it was beautiful.

We took our time getting ready and leaving that morning and headed for another little town in Montepulciano. It was still VERY cold and the little town was pretty much closed up but we did do a little wine tasting, and ate delicious food! We spent a little bit of time there and then hopped back in the car to head back to Florence.

This trip was fantastic (obviously). I think I officially have the travel bug and cannot wait to plan my next big international trip. Most importantly though, this trip opened my eyes to something. I’m going to be 34 this year, I’m unmarried and don’t have any children. For me that was not in my grand master plan (but who has a grand master plan that actually falls in place?) nonetheless, I believe that everything happens for a reason. There is a reason and a bigger plan for me to be unmarried in my almost-mid-30’s – I have the time, the resources, and a job that enables me to take this time off to travel. I know that people still travel once they’re married and have kids etc., and as selfish as this may sound – this trip was mine. It will always be mine. I shared it with some FANTASTIC friends, but it will always be my first trip to Italy – it will always be before getting married and before having kids, and something just plain special about that. I think having this time in my 30’s to do these things is why all that other stuff is on hold, and I’m more content with that then I’ve ever been.

Life is good – and all that other stuff will come in time and make life even better, but until then I will embrace these opportunities and take advantage of the adventures I get to take with some of the coolest people I know.

Ciao!

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Italy Adventures: Rome Edition

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Disclaimer – Rome was one of my favorite cities we visited while in Italy. Everyone has asked me which city was my favorite and it was a close tie between Rome and Venice. However, we did spend more time in Rome than we did in Venice so maybe Rome has the advantage…

From Florence we hopped on an early morning train headed for Rome. We had a fantastic, modern apartment located smack in the middle of the city. Rome is extremely walkable in general, but where we were staying was absolutely perfect. We hopped in an Uber from the train station and I was instantly struck by the opposites of things visually. Here we were in a bustling city full of people rushing to get to work and school, and cars zooming by and yet on every corner was a ruin – and oh there’s the Colosseum…just there in all it’s glory! It hit my senses in such an interesting way. I was intrigued by the beauty of it, and the oddness of feeling like you were driving through a museum placed inside a modern day city.

Once we checked into the apartment we all got a little more settled and set out to walk a bit and find somewhere to eat before our Vatican Museum reservation at 1pm. Another tidbit from Stephanie that we were grateful for – ALWAYS make a reservation for the Vatican Museum – you can do it online and it’s super easy. The line is atrocious to get in without tickets. Stephanie went back to the apartment to relax as she had already been through the Vatican Museum, so Diana, Stephanie and myself made our way to the museum, bought the guided audio tour and set out.

I was extremely excited about the Vatican Museum – and honestly I thought that was going to be the place where I would have my art history “aha” moment – but as I mentioned in previous blogs it was in Florence seeing the David for the first time – so I was definitely curious to see how this would differ. The Vatican Museums are the museums of the Vatican City and are located within the city’s boundaries. They display works from the immense collection built up by the Popes throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important master pieces of Renaissance art in the world – and of course the Sistine Chapel. The museums contain roughly 70,000 works, of which 20,000 are on display (and the way my feet felt at the end of the day – I think we saw all 20,000!) There are 54 galleries in total and is one of the largest museums in the world.

You start the tour of the museum with the Gregorian Egyptian Museum which was founded on the initiative of Pope Gregory XVI in 1839. I don’t know what I was expecting right off the bat, but I guess not Egyptian art and artifacts. Nonetheless it definitely channeled memories from being in 5th and 6th grade when I think my teacher was obsessed with Egyptian art, history and all that goes along with it. I distinctly remember doing a TON of work related to Egyptians and Egyptian life so this was cool to walk into and for me, unexpected.

The collection is particularly interesting because of it’s relationship with the territory – rich in material from Roman Egypt and from Egyptian-influenced Rome. That was a light bulb moment for me – and something new I had just learned. Many of the monuments were brought to Rome at the behest of the emperor in order to embellish buildings, shrines and villas. There were also a number of Egyptian works of Roman production, which offered evidence of an important moment in history of pharaonic culture. The other rooms included epigraphic artifacts, funerary customs of Ancient Egypt and so on. I highly recommend poking through the Vatican Museum’s website – it was just redone this year and is a lot of fun to look through: http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en.html.

Kelly and I spent 4 1/2 hours in the Vatican Museum! I don’t think that I have ever spent that much time in one museum – close, but not quite!

To see more photos from our trip, follow my Instagram: Wishbonedreams

That night we went to a cute little pizza place that our Airbnb host had recommended – by the way, I ordered a fried pizza. Yes, a fried pizza! It was like instead of baking a calzone, they fried it. It was divine! All of our feet were killing us so instead of going out that night we bought a yummy bottle of wine (3 euros – can’t go wrong with that!) and stayed in.

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The notorious fried pizza

We had an early start the next morning as Kelly and I were going to visit the Colosseum and then we were planning to meet up with Stephanie and Diana for a walking tour of Rome. I think I’ve mentioned before that the “free” walking tours are free – but you are expected to tip your tour guide. We decided on a tour that included the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Temple of Adrian, Pantheon and Piazza Navona. I’m so glad we did this tour because it really saves you a lot of time, especially if you’re trying to navigate and not get lost. We had a fantastic tour guide who’s knowledge was out of this world. It made me feel like I was in one of my art history classes, and made me a little jealous that I’m not living a less stressful life guiding tours in beautiful Rome 🙂

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From left: Diana, Kelly, Nikki (me!), and Stephanie! AKA best travel buds ever!

We walked around quite a bit more, found a delicious restaurant with fantastic pasta and pizza (Stephanie had a potato pizza and it was amazing!) Potato pizza? Seemed like a weird concept to me, but it was fantastic! We then decided to try a bakery right next door called ZUM Roma. This was quite literally the cutest little shop I’ve ever been in, AND had the best tiramisu I have EVER had. You get a choice of the traditional recipe or a host of their other flavors (you name it, they’ve got it), and then you can sit down in the trendy designed café. ZUM Roma is named after the main ingredients, zucchero (sugar), uovo (egg), and mascarpone. We timed it just right and were able to see one of the professionals at work in their open kitchen.

ZUM Roma Tiramisu – amazing!

After we had full bellies we headed back toward the Colosseum where Kelly and I wanted to walk through the Roman Forum (since it was part of our Colosseum ticket as well), and Diana and Stephanie were going to break off and check out the Colosseum on their own.

Colosseum Fun!

Roman Forum

We continued with more souvenir shopping and went back to the apartment to get ready for dinner. We decided since it was our last night in Rome that we would go to a nice dinner. The restaurant we chose was in a really cute part of  Rome – and the funny thing is that everywhere we went for dinner we were like, “Wow, this place is empty.” We had to keep reminding ourselves that Italians eat dinner much later than we do. So by the time we were done eating, the places was PACKED. Anyway, we had some very handsome waiters so we asked them where we should go to grab a couple of drinks. They were very sweet in thinking that we would want an American bar. So, unbeknownst to us we walked into an American bar in Rome!! It was quite funny, but we were also the oldest folks in the crowd (it clearly catered to American exchange students). So, with that we bar hopped some more and then headed back to the apartment as we were headed out to catch the first train back to Florence early the next morning.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Rome was definitely one of my favorite cities. It’s just plain beautiful to see, and everything is walking distance! Stay tuned for the next edition which will cover our Tuscany adventures!

Ciao!

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Italy Adventures: Venice and Pisa Edition

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I’m so excited that my last post about our adventures in Florence was so well received! It was my most viewed post to-date so I thank you all for reading it!

As promised, I have the next edition of our Italy adventures. I decided to put Venice and Pisa together because these were two locations we spent the least amount of time visiting – though believe me Venice I thought was breathtaking.

We got up very early to catch a train to Venice. Our plan was to get there as early as possible and then catch the last train home that evening. Venice is everything you see in movies. The grand canal runs through the little city, there’s gondolas, and sweet couples holding hands, and people trying to sell you selfie sticks (but that’s neither here nor there). Anyway, it was also one of our warmer days given that the average temperature was in the high 40’s throughout a majority of our trip until that point. So, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and we were really excited to be in Venice!

Stephanie is a fantastic “tour guide” so to speak. She had already been everywhere we were going on this trip so we got to benefit from what she had learned on previous visits. So, we followed her as we wound through all the little alleyways that make up Venice. Stephanie is basically the trip adviser queen and always found us the absolute best places to eat. She had found us a highly recommended little walk-up pasta window. It was amazing! You literally choose your pasta, sauce, and additional toppings (ummm cheese and more cheese please!). Then you wait for them to call your number and you get this to-go container (similar to what you would put Chinese takeout in) filled with pasta! Oh, it was amazing. Venice was also the fist place I finally tried gelato (because it finally wasn’t FREEZING outside) – and it was everything everyone had told me it would be. Quite divine!

We made sure to make our way to St. Mark’s Basilica. St. Mark’s Basilica is the Cathedral Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city’s cathedral since 1802, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. For it’s opulent design, gold ground mosaics, and it’s status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the the 11th century on the building has been known by the nickname, “Church of Gold.”

The outside of St. Mark’s Basilica and the square itself is very impressive, but walking inside the cathedral was a whole other thing. It was remarkable and inspiring. It almost seemed as if it was a being – a living thing. I don’t know how else to explain the energy that is connected to that place (especially given that I was not brought up with much of a religious background). Either way, if you appreciate history, whether art or religion you would be moved by the beauty inside of that cathedral.

Once we wrapped things up at St. Mark’s Square (and ensured that poor Stephanie was not going to be attacked by a pigeon), we set off to look for a gondola! The gondola ride was on everyone’s to-do list – I mean how could you take your first trip to Venice and not take a ride on a gondola?

I have to say it was pretty cool – only once we were in the wide open of the grand canal did Diana inform us that she was a little freaked out about being in open water like that…luckily we weren’t out there for very long! We rode through all the little lagoons surrounded by hotels, restaurants and what I’m guessing were people’s apartments. It was a really cool experience and quite impressive that there was one person commandeering the entire boat with an oar!

After our gondola ride we decided to walk around and do some shopping. Up until that point I hadn’t bought any souvenirs for anyone and I definitely had a bit of a list. So, we did some shopping, bought some great little things for my nieces and my mom and decided to stop and grab a couple of drinks before we needed to head back to the train station. Well, one drink turned into like 4 and pretty soon we were taking pictures with the bar owner and running as fast as we could to just barely catch our train!

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Venice had definitely been a successful day trip, though I think I would have liked to have stayed the night, grab dinner and some more drinks and just overall spend a little bit more time in there. It seemed like such a different little city once it was dark and everything was lit up.

We took another quick day trip to Pisa. Stephanie had mentioned that there was really only a couple of things to see in Pisa (leaning tower of course), and that we only needed a couple of hours. It was judgment calls like that I was grateful for because I would have never known that and very well could have wasted an entire day there when I could have been exploring something else. Anyway, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is quite a site! You don’t see it at first when you get off the train, and it’s just a short walk from the train station. But then, all of a sudden there it is! Standing so strangely crooked! It almost seems like it’s fake!

The learning tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower which is known worldwide for it’s unintended tilt. It is situated behind Pisa’s cathedral and is the third oldest structure in the city’s cathedral square. The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

We did the VERY typical thing and posed as if we were holding the leaning tower up ourselves – and I almost had a heart attack when Kelly decided to STAND on the post to get an even better photo. I was slightly afraid she was going fall on the grass that specifically had a sign letting us know to stay OFF of the grass. Nonetheless it was a lot of fun and site to see that’s for sure!

We wrapped up in Pisa, and as per usual were running to the train station in order to not miss our ride back to Florence.

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Italy Adventures – in ROMA!

Ciao!

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Italy Adventures – Florence Edition

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January was a very quiet month for me when it came to blogging, and that was in part because I was in Italy for a good part of the month! I made sure to take notes to share with all of you, and I have SO much that I decided to break each blog post into the cities we visited – so as the title indicates, this is the Florence edition!

Where do I start?! This trip had been a dream of mine since I sat down in my community college art class at the age of 18 and realized I was actually in an art history class. From that moment my life changed. I found an appreciation for art in a way I didn’t know existed. I come from a family of very creative and artistic people, so to sit in a classroom and look at slides of pieces of artwork and learn that way was foreign to me. But I embraced it, and I LOVED it.

This Italy trip had been planned for well over 6 months and the thing that initiated the adventure was our world traveler friend who had embarked on her own adventure by moving to Florence to go to pastry school (I still tell her she’s the bravest person I know for taking such a leap into a new country and a new skill). So, like any true friends we HAD to plan a visit to see her. Also, you may remember this particular group of friends as being featured in my very first blog post which outlined our adventures in camping in Oregon.

Kelly and myself (Diana was on a different flight), departed San Francisco for Italy on January 15th for what has been now my longest flight ever (10.5 hours!). Luckily, we were taking off around 4 pm and would hopefully sleep most of it. We landed at Heathrow Airport in London 10.5 hours later a little groggy and hungry. We had a 3 hour layover which was perfect for Kelly and I to walk a bit and get ourselves together. We then boarded a smaller shorter flight to Bologna, Italy, then a short bus ride and a train ride later we found ourselves in Florence! Seeing Stephanie and Diana’s smiling faces was amazing! They were waiting for us at the train station in Florence, and away our trip began!

While walking to Stephanie’s apartment, and looking around I thought to myself “holy smokes, I’m in Italy – a place I have ALWAYS wanted to visit. I can’t believe I’m here!” It was everything I expected, cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways, little compact cars flying by, coffee shops and little restaurants up and down the streets and on every corner. It was every picturesque thought I had given Italy. We grabbed a late dinner and then walked to a little pub near Stephanie’s apartment. And wouldn’t you know, snow began falling! It wasn’t much, and I would call it snow flurries more than actually snowing, but it was sweet and quite special!

The next day, we got up and headed to the Galleria dell’Accademia to check out some art and see Michelangelo’s David. I knew that I would have a “moment” at some point while looking at the art work we were going to see. I think I’ve mentioned in previous postings, that if I hadn’t majored in communications I definitely would have been an art history major. So, I anticipated that this trip would make some of my art history dreams come true, but I hadn’t really anticipated how seeing some of these pieces were going to make me feel.

When we walked into the museum it took me right back to the days of learning about the Renaissance era. Kelly and I wandered our way through the museum, taking our time (Stephanie and Diana were meandered together), and I was just taking in all the beauty, telling myself to enjoy it, be as present in the moment as possible, and appreciate every last second of it – because while it may sound corny, this really was the trip of a lifetime.

As we moved through the museum we entered Michelangelo’s section where there were a number of his incomplete sculptures. I was trying to determine where I wanted to start, so I looked to my left, and then over to my right. I had Kelly by my side, when I looked to the right and saw Michelangelo’s David. All I could say, breathlessly was, “There it is.” It was quite literally the only thing I could get out of my mouth, and not cry. I wanted to cry? So, this was going to be my “moment.” It hadn’t even occurred to me that seeing the statue of David would have such an impact on me. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It by and far exceeds all expectations, and it is the most amazing depiction of the human body. To see something in person that you have seen recreated in so many ways, studied and written papers on, taken exams on and to have it right in front of you…there are no words, well other than “There it is.”

It was one of those moments where something you never thought you’d see in your lifetime happens, and it’s halting. It stops you in your tracks, and nothing seems to be around you. I felt like I was having that moment by myself with no one else around me (which was definitely not the case, as there were easily 50-75 people sharing the same experience as me). But, that piece of artwork, that piece of history and piece of time was right there standing in front of me. It truly was priceless.

Here’s a little history on Michelangelo’s David. The David stands 17 feet tall made of marble. The statue represents the biblical hero David, a favored subject in the art of Florence. It was originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roof line of the east end of the Florence Cathedral, instead the statue was placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo dell Signoria, which is the seat of civic government in Florence (a replica of the David stands there today!)

Because the nature of the hero is represented by this statue, it soon came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Republic of Florence, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family. Michelangelo was asked to complete an unfinished project which had begun 40 years earlier by Agostino di Duccio. Michelangelo responded by completing his most famous work in 1504. The masterwork definitively established his prominence as a sculptor of extraordinary technical skill and strength of symbolic imagination.

Everyone has asked me what my favorite part of the trip was, and that by and far was it. The rest of our days were spent climbing the Duomo and walking more around Florence, through the leather markets, and eating gelato, drinking wine and eating some more (we were averaging 20,000 steps a day!) We took a walking tour in Florence that concentrated on the Medici family – while he had already seen many of the buildings our tour guide pointed out, it was still interesting to hear some context around it. For those who don’t know, the Medici family was an Italian banking family, political dynasty and later a royal house that first began to gather prominence in the Republic of Florence during the first half of the 15th century. Their wealth and influence initially derived from the textile trade. Like other signore (or lord) families, they dominated their city’s government, they were able to bring Florence under their family’s powers, and they created an environment where art and humanism could flourish. They, along with other families of Italy fostered and inspired the birth of the Italian Renaissance.

We spent a couple of more days in Florence where we generally did a lot of the same thing – walked around, took a lot of photos, and mastered being a tourist with our wonderful guide Stephanie!

Stay tuned for the next edition – Venice!

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