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: 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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