Italy Adventures: Rome Edition


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.

fried pizza.jpg

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 🙂


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 cafĂ©. 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!




Italy Adventures – Florence Edition


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!