Uncategorized

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

Our Italian Itinerary.png

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

the-david-1

Day 2

Day 3

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

tuscany5

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

venice-group-photo

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.

vatican2

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

trevi-fountain

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.

pisa-1

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.

firenze-2

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!

Signature

Standard
Uncategorized

Italy Adventures: Tuscany Edition

italy-adventures-tuscany-edition

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!

Signature

Standard