A Travellerspoint blog

Italy

Florence, wine, and wild boars

sunny 95 °F

On Wednesday, our ship docked in Livorno, which is about 1.5 hours outside of Florence. Kevin and I had a quick breakfast and hopped directly on the tour bus – our planned excursion would take us to Florence for a few hours of free time and sightseeing, then to the Greve region, home of some of Tuscany’s top vineyards. On the bus, we planned some of the sights that we wanted to see in Florence, since we wouldn’t have a guided tour, and had to really cram our visit into a mere 2.5 hours. Luckily I remembered a few of my favorite sites from when I visited Florence in October of 2005.

We got off of the bus right in St. Croce Square (“Santa Croce Piazza”), home of Florence’s 2nd most famous church, the Santa Croce Basilica. The inside of the church building itself is not that impressive, but the outside is gorgeous and the inside holds several gorgeous works of Florentine art, as well as several tombs of famous Italians. The church was designed by a Jewish man who knew it would be a Christian church, but wanted to put his own religious influence on the design, so he put a big Star of David at the top! IMG_3120.jpgIMG_3118.jpgIMG_3102.jpg

Inside the church, we saw (in order of the pictures you see here): The tomb of Galileo Galilei, Pio Fedi’s Statue of Liberty, the tomb of Michelangelo Buonarroti, the tomb of Nicolo Machiavelli, and two works by Donatello – the “Annunciation” and the “Crucifix.” IMG_3132.jpgIMG_3134.jpgIMG_3139.jpgIMG_3143.jpgIMG_3147.jpgIMG_3154.jpg

There were several pretty apses in the church and we really enjoyed the visit! IMG_3150.jpg

After St. Croce, we walked to another Piazza (Piazza della Signoria) that holds the Palazzo Vecchio and some outdoor sculptures. The Palazzo is the town hall of Florence today, and is also a museum – it was built in 1299 and has had a role in Florence’s governing bodies since then. It is famous for its huge clock tower, which you see here. We didn’t get into the museum due to time constraints, but just peeked in to see some of the original painted ceilings – gorgeous! IMG_3179.jpgIMG_3175.jpgIMG_3160.jpg

Inside the Piazza, we also saw “The Fountain of Neptune,” by Ammannati in 1575, “Perseus with the Head of Medusa,” by Cellinni in 1554, a copy of Donatello’s “The Lion,” and a copy of Michelangelo’s “David,” which we pretended was the original since we wouldn’t get through the huge lines for the Accademia, where the original is housed. IMG_3158.jpgIMG_3171.jpgIMG_3172.jpgIMG_3170.jpg

Next, we walked to the Duomo, which is Florence’s most famous church. We learned that “Duomo” just means “basilica,” so ALL of the churches in Italy are “Duomos,” but only this one is the famous “Il Duomo.” This one took 5 centuries to be built, starting in 1386, and passed through several designers, architects, builders, project managers, and government rulers, giving each part a unique style. The outside is made of pure marble – white, green, and pink, all of which are naturally occurring. The mosaics of marble, along with a few gold-specked mosaics, make a really unique and beautiful façade. The Duomo is actually the 4th largest church in the world today! Unfortunately, the line to go inside the church and/or to climb the dome was incredibly long, stretching around the whole outside, so we didn’t even try to go in. I guess that means we’ll have to go back! IMG_3184.jpgIMG_3194.jpgIMG_3200.jpgIMG_3205.jpgIMG_3215.jpg

Across from the Duomo is the Baptistry, which we didn’t go inside, but which does have some incredible bronze doors made by Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti. The east doors are plated in gold, and Michelangelo himself called them the “Gates of Paradise.” IMG_3193.jpgIMG_3198.jpg

Our last stop in our walk around the city was the Ponte Vecchio, which is a shop-lined bridge similar to the Rialto in Venice. The Ponte Vecchio was built before 996 (they’re not exactly sure when), and was the only bridge spared when the Germans sacked Florence during World War II. Supposedly, Hitler himself had a soft spot for the bridge and thought it was beautiful, so he just bombed several buildings on either side (to make it impossible to cross the river and escape Florence), but didn’t want it destroyed. Today there are beautiful views of the Arno River and Florence itself from the bridge and on either side. IMG_3221.jpgIMG_3223.jpgIMG_3224.jpgIMG_3233.jpg

If you have any shred of respect for me, don’t read this next paragraph. Several of you have commented on how you like the historical information and interesting details about the places we’re visiting, and several of you have also made fun of me for including this. My very sweet little sister recently (jokingly) asked if I carried around a notepad on our tours to write down the information. I’ll have you know that yes, I do carry around a notepad, and I’m proud of it – ha! Kevin, on the other hand, is not, and pretends he doesn’t know me while I do this  I have also been known to whip out a book or a crossword puzzle while waiting in line for some of the sites, and this really embarrasses him – oh well, he’ll survive! When else will we get to learn so much about so many interesting places? I don’t want to forget it!

OK, back to our day. After a quick visit of Florence, we hopped back on our tour bus and headed to the Castello Vicchiomaggio, a winery in Greve in Chianti, the wine region of Tuscany. The Castle is on a large hill and looks over the gorgeous wine country – the views were breathtaking! Yet another place to which we definitely want to return. Just look at these pictures! IMG_3235.jpgIMG_3238.jpgIMG_3239.jpgIMG_3244.jpgIMG_3251.jpgIMG_3257.jpg

You can see the rows of grapes, and also several bushels of olives, used for olive oil. The region also grows tons of sunflowers and corn – both also used for oil only, and not the actual crop. IMG_3246.jpgIMG_3280.jpgIMG_3254.jpgIMG_3283.jpg

We had lunch in the Castle, which was incredibly hot (Kev’s addition). In many places in Europe, they just don’t have prevalent air conditioning like we’re used to in the US, so many museums, restaurants, hotels, etc. get really hot – especially in the record-breaking heat Europe is having now. We sat in the original dining room of the Castle, and were greeted with several bottles of the Castle’s own red wine. The wine was surprisingly smooth and light (and this from a non-red-wine drinker!). We were first served really speckly salami (which we didn’t have) and some amazing tomato and olive oil bruschetta. The first main course was a rigatoni-shaped pasta in a vegetable sauce with parmesan, and was delicious. The second main course was lasagna-type pasta with meat sauce, and we both really enjoyed the flavor. We finished with biscotti, which we dipped into a Tuscan specialty, “vin santo” (meaning Holy wine). It is a dessert wine, but tastes more like a brandy – super strong and super sweet. We didn’t actually like it that much, but we ate it anyway since it is the Tuscan thing to do. When in Rome…

Unfortunately, we didn’t take pictures of the food, which is absolutely killing me now. If you know me well, you will appropriately guess my reaction to what you are about to hear. When we got back on the bus after more wine and view-absorbing, our bus driver told us what the “meat sauce” on the lasagna was … WILD BOAR! Are you kidding me? I just ate wild boar? And I LIKED it? And I actually picked out the meat parts because I couldn’t finish the whole thing but liked the flavor? Oh. My. Goodness. Ha! That’s one way to get us to try strange meats! Next birthday party, you know what’ll be on the menu! Another food note – did you notice that the appetizer, both main courses, and the dessert were all heavily bread/ pasta based? The Italians really do love their pasta! While they told us that a normal lunch wouldn’t be quite so heavy and bread-laden, they also told us that for celebrations, fancier meals, parties, or at nicer restaurants, it is not uncommon to have up to 5 courses of pasta! Wow! IMG_3274.jpgIMG_3276.jpgIMG_3259.jpg

After the Castle, we headed to “Unione Produttori Vini del Chianti,” one of the largest wine stories and wine-tasting facilities in the region. We got “debit cards” loaded with money and could use the cards to buy tastes of any of the 150+ wines on display. The main hall was filled with red wines, but there was also a white wine room, olive oil section, and Reserve wines section. This was such a fun experience! We got to taste a ton of wines and learned a little bit more about what we do and don’t like. We spent a few hours there and had a blast! IMG_3294.jpgIMG_3292.jpgIMG_3290.jpg

All that wine led to a sleepy 2-hour bus trip back, and when we eventually returned to the ship we relaxed for a while, walked around the ship, watched the sailaway from Livorno, and headed to dinner (yes, we were still hungry, even after the wild boar!). We started with French onion soup for each, which was very cheesy but delicious. I then had a salad, and Kev had chilled pumpkin soup (plus a weird look from the waiter for ordering 2 soups). Next we had filet medallions (Kev’s favorite dinner of the trip), and chicken breast, both served with nice grilled vegetables. Kev finished with chocolate hazelnut warm-centered cake and vanilla ice cream, and I had mango sorbet. Delicious meal to cap of a very busy, fun, and exciting day in Florence and Greve! Thanks for reading! IMG_3297.jpgIMG_3298.jpgIMG_3299.jpgIMG_3300.jpgIMG_3302.jpgIMG_3303.jpg

Posted by megandkev 14:34 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

Roaming through Rome

sunny 99 °F

Kev and I really enjoyed seeing the historical city of Rome, and had yet another great day. We are starting to realize that this incredible journey is finally going to end after a few more cities, so we’re eating up every moment that we have left! We started our day in Rome by pulling into the port of Civitavecchia, which means “Old City.” We drove 1.5 hours from there to the Coliseum with our tour group. Honeymoon_Day_31_001.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_004.jpg

The Coliseum was finished in 80 AD, after 10 years of construction. I had always assumed that “Coliseum” came from “colossus,” describing the size, but actually, it was named after the Colossus, a statue directly across from the stadium. The Colossus was a statue of Nero rising over 100 feet, commissioned by Nero himself. Narcissistic much? Later in Roman history, the Roman government interred a lot of monuments and destroyed a lot of statues that were built to honor Nero, in order to give the Romans back what was rightfully theirs.

When the Coliseum was built, it held 80,000 people, and was used for fights between gladiators and animals until the 6th century AD. The animals were stored underneath the main stage (in the maze-like area that you see) and lifted up to stage by “elevators” rigged with pulleys. It was also flooded occasionally and used for mock naval battles. It also had a fabric sliding, retractable roof made of a ship sail! After the 6th century, it was used as a cemetery, then a castle, and between 1500 and 1700 was used as a shelter for thieves and prostitutes, who contributed to its destruction. Today, the limestone pillars and arches, and brick walls are mostly original material, despite lots of restorations that have occurred. The Pope still does the Stations of the Cross here every Good Friday! Honeymoon_Day_31_023.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_028.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_032.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_033.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_047.jpg

After wandering around the Coliseum for a while, we negotiated our way through the streets of Rome (which are quite congested with the 3 million Romans who live there and the 16 million tourists who visit there every year!) to the restaurant where we ate lunch. The lunch was average (of course, we’ve been having incredible food, so I think our “average” rating right now will be off the charts in the positive direction once we are students next year!) and consisted of a pasta with marinara, veal scallopini, peas, and potatoes, followed by tiramisu. I actually psyched myself up to try veal for the first time, but Kev said it was really bad so I didn’t even try it – oops! The building also lacked air conditioning – which so many places in Europe seem to have in common – and Kev was especially hot. It hit about 99 degrees Fahrenheit when we were in Rome.

After lunch, we headed to the Vatican Museum, which was absolutely incredible. The line was about 2 hours long, but because we were with a reserved tour group, we got to slip right to the front. We started in the main courtyard (the “Pinecone Courtyard,” named after this bronze-enclosed actual pinecone that was found hundreds of years ago decorating the Thermal Baths of Rome), then walked through the Museum to the Sistine Chapel. The Museum is absolutely packed with gorgeous art works – you could spend 2 weeks there and not get to appreciate everything in the collection! Many of the galleries have walls and ceilings that are fully lined with beautiful paintings that would be considered masterpieces in any other setting, but kind of get overlooked here! This is the statue of Leochin (whose name I am 100% positive I am misspelling), who was a priest of Troy and was the only one that predicted that the Trojan horse was a trick rather than a gift. As he was trying to convince people of this, the goddess Athena sent snakes down to kill him, which this sculpture represents. Honeymoon_Day_31_071.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_068.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_083.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_091.jpg

This is “The Torso,” a very famous sculpture, the last Greek sculpture found in Rome, and a famous bronze sculpture of Hercules. Also a few more pictures of the ceilings, which we just couldn’t get over. Several of the ceilings are painted as if they were 3-D but are actually flat, and they’re amazing! There are also several tapestries from mid-1500s Brussels, showing the life of Jesus and the life of the Popes. They were initially made for the Sistene Chapel but now reside within the museum. The “Map Room,” which is the last picture here,” was especially amazing because of the incredible ceilings! Honeymoon_Day_31_095.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_104.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_110.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_114.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_125.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_134.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_142.jpg

At the end of the walk through the Vatican Museum, we came to the Sistene Chapel. This was inaugurated in 1483 after being commissioned by Pope Sixtus, and is a structural replica of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. At that time, they had just the side paintings, showing the life of Jesus on the left and the life of Moses on the right. You can see an example of those here.

In 1508, Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel. At this time, Michelangelo was only a sculptor and had NEVER painted before – this was his FIRST painting job! He spent years covering the 800 square meters with beautiful frescoes. The most famous pieces are probably the Creation of Adam (with the fingers pointing at each other) and the Last Judgment, finished in 1534. Several people criticized the Last Judgment for being too severe, because Jesus is shown with one hand up (sending people to Heaven) and one hand down (sending people to Hell). It was also criticized for the extensive nudity, especially by some government leader, who Michelangelo repaid by painting the government leader in the bottom corner of the picture, naked except for a snake which was biting his genitals. Payback! The Sistene Chapel was beautiful, amazing, and interesting, and we’re so glad we got the chance to visit it! By the way, pictures are not officially allowed in the Sistene Chapel, but the guards there were "looking the other way" if you took pictures with no flash. Honeymoon_Day_31_156.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_157.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_162.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_169.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_172.jpg

After the Sistene Chapel, we got to go to St. Peter’s Basilica. I didn’t know that St. Peter was the first official Pope, and that the Popes originally lived in St. John’s (the oldest church in Rome, built in 315). In the 1300s, Christianity was legalized by Constantine, and St. Peter’s was started as a new home for the Popes. Because each Pope had his own priorities, budgets, etc., it was kind of a “rolling” project, and lasted 120 years before it was completed.In the 1500s, Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to make several improvements to it, which is why it looks so beautiful today. The dome is the tallest in Rome, but is not the biggest in Rome (the Pantheon is). Honeymoon_Day_31_064.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_179.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_193.jpg

This door is a famous one that is only opened every 25 years, when several people on a Pilgrimage-type trip try to enter the 4 most holy cathedrals in the world, including St. Peter’s. Besides those rare occasions, the door is actually backed by cement, so its impossible to open! Honeymoon_Day_31_180.jpg

The inside of the Basilica is absolutely outstanding – it’s done in the Baroque (“in your face, flashy beautiful” style), and every inch is adorned with a beautiful carving, mosaic, etc. Notice I didn’t say painting – there are no frescoes or paintings in the entire cathedral, so anything you see is actually a mosaic or a marble carving. Amazing! Honeymoon_Day_31_195.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_197.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_211.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_222.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_227.jpg

Several Popes are buried here, and are marked with elaborate marble tombs such as these. Honeymoon_Day_31_202.jpg

The most famous work of art in the Basilica is Michelangelo’s Pieta, which we couldn’t get super close to, but was still amazing to see. Honeymoon_Day_31_203.jpg

You can see the altar here, as well as the Papal Throne. Can anyone tell me how the Pope gets up into it? I am baffled! It is said that Jesus will sit in this Throne on Judgment Day. Honeymoon_Day_31_199.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_220.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_228.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_231.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_233.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_236.jpg

The Church was incredible, and just as amazing was standing on the church steps looking out into St. Peter’s Square, which you tend to see on TV during religious celebrations. It is huge! You can see the window that the Pope uses to greet anyone in the Square every Sunday – it’s the second one on the top right in the last picture. Honeymoon_Day_31_182.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_188.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_246.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_247.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_253.jpgHoneymoon_Day_31_243.jpg

After the Basilica, we had another 1.5 hour drive back to the ship. It was a long, tiring, HOT day, and we were wiped out, so we just acted lazy and had dinner at the buffet instead of sitting down at the restaurant. We later went to the musical production “Once Upon a Dream,” which was pretty impressive and entertaining, and then called it an early night, making sure to get enough rest for the next day’s trip to Florence and the Chianti Wine Country!!!

Posted by megandkev 16:20 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

Just another day in Paradise...

Naples, Pompei, Sorrento, and Capri

sunny 95 °F

We so enjoyed our time in the Naples, Italy area, and only wish we had more time here! What a great part of the world. Our day started out pulling into the port of Naples (Napoli), which is actually a much bigger city than either of us expected. Honeymoon_..-30_156.jpg

We travelled by bus to Pompeii, the ancient city (built around 400-100 BC) that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Mount Vesuvius is actually at least 2 miles away from the city of Pompeii, but the eruption still covered the city with 21 feet of ash! Most of the rich were able to escape, as there were several tremors before the actual eruption, and the 2,000 people that died were mainly slaves. Luckily for us, the ash formed a chalky plaster that perfectly preserved everything in the city, even when buried far underground. The restoration and reconstruction started in 1748, and they’ve been working on it consistently since then, but almost 33% of the city is still buried! 5 years ago, UNESCO (which funds the reconstruction efforts of Pompeii) decided to work on restoring the parts that have already been uncovered (that are now falling apart after over 250 years) rather than uncovering more. Anyway, the details of the city that were preserved were fascinating, and it was so fun to walk around and envision life in Pompeii so long ago, just as we did in Ephesus. Here are a few shots of Pompeii, and you can see Vesuvius in the background in a few of them. Honeymoon_..-30_162.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_163.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_165.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_168.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_170.jpg

One of the most interesting things was the roads, which you can see in several of the pictures. The sewage system flowed directly into the roads constantly, so they had a stream of clean water running down the streets also to “clean” them. The roads, then, were always wet, which made for some slippery carriage driving, so the sidewalks were very high to protect citizens. They also had small white pieces of marble embedded in the roads (as you see here) to reflect the moonlight and illuminate the roads, in lieu of a lighting system. Pretty advanced! Also pretty advanced were the sliding doors found on the stoop of each shop - you can see the furrow in this picture. Honeymoon_..-30_171.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_214.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_213.jpg

Throughout the city, we saw several temples, courthouses, main squares, and arches. I will include several pictures here before mentioning a few more interesting facts. Honeymoon_..-30_172.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_179.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_183.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_202.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_199.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_238.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_239.jpg

We came across a pottery shop, which was perfectly preserved – everything you see here is ORIGINAL pottery from 79 AD! Can you believe how well the ash preserved everything? If you look in the middle of the picture, you can also see a man’s body – he was found lying on the floor of this pottery shop. Honeymoon_..-30_187.jpg

We also came across a few bakeries, which were so interesting! Do you recognize the brick oven – it’s the EXACT same as we use today! The other object is a flour mill – Pompeii exported flour as its main source of revenue, and there would be a huge bar stuck through the holes in this mill, with a man on either side pushing the bar in circles. This would grind the flour. I think you had to be there to understand! We also saw a bar, which consisted of a high marble bar/ table, just as we have today, with a few circular holes that were used to hold the terra cotta pitchers, that would keep hot drinks warm and cold drinks cool. In the last picture in this set (with the arches), the archaelogists uncovered 3,000 coins that looked very different from the other coins they had found throughout the houses and shops of Pompeii. It took them a while to realize that this was the foreign exchange shop – holding coins from Spain, Libya, what is now Turkey, and several other places! This blows my mind. Honeymoon_..-30_207.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_209.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_217.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_263.jpg

We also entered the Forum Baths, kind of like a public YMCA where you would go to work out and shower. It had 4 rooms – one for bodybuilding, followed by a very hot one that had underground wells full of boiling water, which released steam up into the room. Notice the ceilings in this room – they are ridged so that the condensation would stream down the sides instead of dripping on the bathers! After the hot room, you’d go into a bath full of medium-temperature water, and finally into the cold water before getting dressed and leaving. Honeymoon_..-30_242.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_250.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_252.jpg

Finally, we entered a house – this was considered a small house, but we were shocked at how big it was! The main area had an open sunlight (hole in the ceiling), where rain would pour into the basin in the middle of the floor, which drained into an underground well that was accessible by pulley. They had summer and winter sections of the houses – the summer section was mainly a garden, and the walls of the garden held beautiful mosaics and paintings that created an illusion of a larger room, or being able to see out. They had no windows (since it would offer no protection from the elements), so these mosaics and paintings helped them feel like they were outside. Can you believe how well they were preserved? Also of note in the house was the dining room - the Pompeiians really enjoyed their feasts! So much so that they ate on mattresses, lying down, to facilitate napping in the middle of the meal Half of the time, it was to digest their food so they could eat more, and the other half it was to recover a bit from all the wine they had been drinking. The richer families even had comedians come in during the dinner period to wake up the sleepers! How funny! We learned a lot in Pompeii and felt very lucky to be able to visit it. Honeymoon_..-30_223.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_225.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_227.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_228.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_262.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_265.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_268.jpg

After Pompeii, we drove about one hour to Sorrento, where we had lunch. It was a traditional Italian restaurant and was delicious! The first course was long ravioli-like pasta filled with spinach and ricotta, followed by chicken breast with mozzarella, eggplant and zucchini, and potatoes. They had “specialty cake” for dessert, which were almost too full to enjoy! We got to walk around Sorrento for about an hour after lunch, and enjoyed the shops and people watching before walking down this massive staircase to the port! Here are a few pretty shots of the coastline of Sorrento! Honeymoon_..-30_275.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_278.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_279.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_272.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_273.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_274.jpg

At the port, we boarded a hydro-foil (we’re not sure why it was called that – it just seemed like a boat to us!), which took us to the island of Capri. Before we got on, we got a few more shots of the Sorrento coastline...Honeymoon_..-30_282.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_283.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_284.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_285.jpg

All I can say is WOW – we absolutely adored Capri. We still can’t decide if we like Capri or St. Lucia more … St. Lucia will always be “our” place since we got engaged there, but Capri came pretty close to it scenery-wise! I think we’ll have to go back to both to solve this issue – ha! Here are a few shots of the coastline. Honeymoon_..-30_287.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_292.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_296.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_300.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_301.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_302.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_304.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_307.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_312.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_314.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_317.jpg

We boarded a funicular to go to the top of the city, and took several pictures again from the top – what a beautiful view! We couldn’t get enough. Our guide then took us on a walking tour of the city, which was again filled with narrow, shop-lined, cobblestone streets and was very pleasant. Here is a famous hotel, Quisisana, where all the celebs supposedly stay – last week Angela Merkel was here! Here is another shot of the lemons – they are famous for their lemons and take lots of pride in them, and they are HUGE! Honeymoon_..-30_376.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_378.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_319.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_321.jpg

Our tour finished in the Augustus Gardens, which were simply stunning and very well kept. It was private property until the owner left it in his will as a public park, and thank goodness he did because it holds the best views on the island! Honeymoon_..-30_327.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_369.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_373.jpg

I am just going to let these speak for themselves – how beautiful! Kev would be mad if I didn’t mention all the nice yachts that you see – they were pretty amazing! Honeymoon_..-30_330.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_332.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_336.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_338.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_339.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_341.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_348.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_356.jpg

Notice this incredibly windy road … there are no cars allowed in the city center, and because of the incredible views, many of the hotels are located high up on the cliffs. As a result, the further you have to walk, the cheaper the hotel is, but the better the view is! We decided that when we come back, we want to stay at Hotel Villakrupp (pictured here), which is apparently VERY nice and even higher than where we stood today, but would be a pretty long walk. The nice thing is that they take your suitcases up for you via electric scooter-type thing, so we are sure we can handle the walk! I just can’t say enough about how gorgeous Capri was – we were sad to leave and will definitely be returning in the future!!! We had some gelato before we left – of course! Honeymoon_..-30_342.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_358.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_364.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_366.jpg
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We took an hour boat ride back to our ship in Naples, boarded, and hit the gym quickly. This was a FULL day of touring, and we were wiped out, so we decided to just go to the buffet instead of the restaurant for dinner. It was fine, but nothing special, and Rover wasn’t hungry so we didn’t get any pictures. We also did some laundry and are turning in for the night, before another long but exciting day in Rome tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Posted by megandkev 10:17 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

Hello and goodbye, Venice!

sunny 95 °F

It’s been a whirlwind two days, but we are finally happily on the Ruby Princess, our cruise ship to the Mediterranean. We are so happy to be on this gorgeous ship and ready for more adventures!

Yesterday morning seems like years ago! I slept in and recovered while Kev went for a run in Hyde Park, then we ate brunch and walked around London a bit. I thought I was taking us to Kensington Gardens, but it actually was the Green Park (how original!), which backs right up into Buckingham Palace, which was perfect! We were excited to see it, although we didn’t get to walk up to the guards and poke them or anything  The park was beautiful and very crowded with people picnicking, strolling, etc. Honeymoon_..-22_002.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_006.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_008.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_015.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_026.jpg

After our walk, we took a taxi to the train station, where we took the Gatwick Express to Gatwick. The train was quick and painless, and we got checked in right away. We spent our time in the British Airways Lounge, which was very nice and had plenty of food and drinks. Then we took our plane to Venice, which was uneventful … all the adventure would come shortly!

Our flight was supposed to land at 7:10, giving us plenty of time to get to dinner on the Grand Canal in Venice, but it was about 45 minutes delayed – no problem. In Venice, there are no cars allowed, so the only way to get from the airport to the city center, and anywhere within the city you want to go, is by public water bus or private water taxi (which is very expensive!) We walked up to the water bus stand just as the last one was pulling away, but we bought tickets for the next, which would leave in 30 minutes. It was very hot (~90 degrees) and there were mosquitos EVERYWHERE, so it was not the most pleasant wait, but we stuck it out. However, once the bus pulled up, the driver had some messed up way of allowing people on (by the stop at which you were planning to disembark), and by the time he got to our stop, there were only 2 places left on the boat. We were literally next in line, but another couple squeezed ahead of us at the last minute, so we got left behind, and had to wait another 30 minutes. Kevin was NOT happy, to say the least! He says he is going to write Alilaguna (the water bus “monopolist”) a letter explaining how poor their operations are  (By the way, the 2nd picture here is from later, just trying to show what a water bus looks like). Once we got on the second water bus, it was 90 minutes to our stop (again, it was still hot!) When we got off the boat, we had directions printed out to our hotel, but the streets are poorly labeled and it was hard to find. We were each carrying a carry-on bag, plus 3 suitcases (since we had to split due to weight), and walking up and down bridges, across canals, and through dimly-lit alleys with sketchy Italian men following us was NOT Kev’s idea of a good time. But … we got there!! It was after 11:30 when we got into our hotel room, so we decided to eat some packaged cookies and crackers that we’d picked up in the British Airways Lounge for dinner! Honeymoon_..-22_030.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_118.jpg

I think I kept Kev up half the night coughing, but the good news is that I am finally starting to feel better!! Thanks for all the well-wishes. I got a little extra rest this morning while Kev went to the gym, then we started our whirlwind tour of Venice. In case you don’t know, Venice is one of my FAVORITE cities, so I had high hopes that Kev would like it, too. Let’s just say … it’s not his absolute favorite, BUT I think a lot of that had to do with the weather. Today was HOT (~95 degrees), and Venice’s canals and alleys do not allow breeze – the stagnant air just melts you. So I’m blaming his less-than-stellar reaction on the weather. He DID love a lot of the buildings and architecture we saw, and really enjoyed the activities we did, so I think there’s hope  Let me walk you through the day…

We started by walking to San Marco Square and Basilica. Unfortunately, it was under a good bit of construction, but it was still beautiful to see and so much fun to be there. We didn’t let pigeons land on us this time! We then spent time walking around the city, which is so gorgeous and incredibly unique. It’s so much fun to walk over bridges, through historic alleyways, and over canals. There were TONS of people all over the place, and it was fun to just watch, stop into random cathedrals and shops, and explore. By the way, do you notice my red, white, and blue outfit? It was the best I could put together! Happy 4th! Honeymoon_..-22_038.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_039.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_045.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_047.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_058.jpg Honeymoon_..-22_037.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_066.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_068.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_086.jpg

After walking around, we hopped on a gondola, which was so much fun! It is pretty hard work to row a gondola, and there is a TON of “traffic” in some of the more popular canal passageways, so these guys earn their money! While we were in the gondola, we saw a water ambulance speed by, and it really makes you realize that this city is ENTIRELY a water-based city. Pretty crazy! We had a lot of fun in the gondola and took a lot of pictures but here are a few… Honeymoon_..-22_063.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_124.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_130.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_134.jpg

Because we didn’t get to have dinner by the Canal last night, lunch by the Canal and Rialto Bridge today was an absolute must, and lived up to all of our expectations! We were literally sitting one table away from the Canal, and it was fun to watch all the gondolas breeze by. We had to start with caprese salad, which was incredibly fresh and delicious. Kev got the lasagna, which was much better and more fresh than it looks in this picture, and I got an Italian chicken salad (Mom, I thought of you saying “never eat anything larger than your head,” but I just couldn’t help it!) Lunch was very romantic, delicious, and fun! We spent a while walking around Rialto afterwards. Honeymoon_..-22_089.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_094.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_096.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_098.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_105.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_108.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_109.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_117.jpg Honeymoon_..-22_151.jpg

After lunch, we went on a quick Murano glass tour. The glass they spin right here in Venice is absolutely amazing, and they do it so quickly and seemingly effortlessly! The beautiful creations they make are so much fun to look at, and we really enjoyed seeing so many of them. Honeymoon_..-22_101.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_103.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_104.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_082.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_155.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_156.jpg

I love Venice! Honeymoon_..-22_112.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_140.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_142.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_147.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_157.jpg

By this point, we were both incredibly hot – our clothes were thoroughly soaked, which is not good when you’re wearing a white skirt! We scooted back to our hotel, grabbed our luggage, and made our way back through the alleys to the water bus stand. We had to wait 22 minutes in the uncovered heat for this one, but we easily made it on the first bus, so we called it a raging success! We pulled up to the Ruby Princess (our ship), checked our luggage, and boarded, which was again relatively painless. We were so hot that all we wanted was a shower, so we did just that. Our room, by the way, is AMAZING! Because it is our honeymoon, we got upgraded to a room at the back of the ship with a BALCONY! It is going to be amazing to look out of as we sail through the Mediterranean and leave some of our ports of call. The ship is also incredible! It is set up very similarly to the last one, with some different decorations. We gave ourselves a full tour today and saw as much as we could, but we didn’t take many pictures – we have 11 more days to reveal them to you! We did snap a few of the July 4th decorations they have around here (a lot of the passengers seem to be American, and the age range is definitely more what we’re used to than on the last cruise! I’d say we’re on the young side of average here, because there are several families with kids!) Honeymoon_..-22_161.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_164.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_166.jpg

We couldn’t start a cruise without a huge feast for dinner, so strap yourselves in. We started with Thai coconut chicken chili soup (for me), caprese salad (for Kev – no matter that he’d had it 6 hours before!), and shrimp cocktail to share. Then we had tomato-cucumber gazpacho (Kev), house salad (me), and we each had Chateaubriand for an entrée. Everything was amazing! We’ve decided already that the food on this cruise is better than the last one, even! Wow! We finished up with an unphotogenic fruit salad (me), and chocolate fudge peanut butter pie (Kev). All in all, a delicious dinner! Honeymoon_..-22_175.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_176.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_177.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_178.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_179.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_180.jpg

After dinner, we wandered around a bit more, then headed back to write this monster of a blog post. We want to get a lot of sleep and try to fully recover before officially starting our journey tomorrow! We miss you all and Happy 4th of July!!! Honeymoon_..-22_168.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_171.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_172.jpg

Posted by megandkev 13:39 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Hello and goodbye, Venice!

sunny 95 °F

It’s been a whirlwind two days, but we are finally happily on the Ruby Princess, our cruise ship to the Mediterranean. We are so happy to be on this gorgeous ship and ready for more adventures!

Yesterday morning seems like years ago! I slept in and recovered while Kev went for a run in Hyde Park, then we ate brunch and walked around London a bit. I thought I was taking us to Kensington Gardens, but it actually was the Green Park (how original!), which backs right up into Buckingham Palace, which was perfect! We were excited to see it, although we didn’t get to walk up to the guards and poke them or anything  The park was beautiful and very crowded with people picnicking, strolling, etc. Honeymoon_..-22_002.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_006.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_008.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_015.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_026.jpg

After our walk, we took a taxi to the train station, where we took the Gatwick Express to Gatwick. The train was quick and painless, and we got checked in right away. We spent our time in the British Airways Lounge, which was very nice and had plenty of food and drinks. Then we took our plane to Venice, which was uneventful … all the adventure would come shortly!

Our flight was supposed to land at 7:10, giving us plenty of time to get to dinner on the Grand Canal in Venice, but it was about 45 minutes delayed – no problem. In Venice, there are no cars allowed, so the only way to get from the airport to the city center, and anywhere within the city you want to go, is by public water bus or private water taxi (which is very expensive!) We walked up to the water bus stand just as the last one was pulling away, but we bought tickets for the next, which would leave in 30 minutes. It was very hot (~90 degrees) and there were mosquitos EVERYWHERE, so it was not the most pleasant wait, but we stuck it out. However, once the bus pulled up, the driver had some messed up way of allowing people on (by the stop at which you were planning to disembark), and by the time he got to our stop, there were only 2 places left on the boat. We were literally next in line, but another couple squeezed ahead of us at the last minute, so we got left behind, and had to wait another 30 minutes. Kevin was NOT happy, to say the least! He says he is going to write Alilaguna (the water bus “monopolist”) a letter explaining how poor their operations are  (By the way, the 2nd picture here is from later, just trying to show what a water bus looks like). Once we got on the second water bus, it was 90 minutes to our stop (again, it was still hot!) When we got off the boat, we had directions printed out to our hotel, but the streets are poorly labeled and it was hard to find. We were each carrying a carry-on bag, plus 3 suitcases (since we had to split due to weight), and walking up and down bridges, across canals, and through dimly-lit alleys with sketchy Italian men following us was NOT Kev’s idea of a good time. But … we got there!! It was after 11:30 when we got into our hotel room, so we decided to eat some packaged cookies and crackers that we’d picked up in the British Airways Lounge for dinner! Honeymoon_..-22_030.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_118.jpg

I think I kept Kev up half the night coughing, but the good news is that I am finally starting to feel better!! Thanks for all the well-wishes. I got a little extra rest this morning while Kev went to the gym, then we started our whirlwind tour of Venice. In case you don’t know, Venice is one of my FAVORITE cities, so I had high hopes that Kev would like it, too. Let’s just say … it’s not his absolute favorite, BUT I think a lot of that had to do with the weather. Today was HOT (~95 degrees), and Venice’s canals and alleys do not allow breeze – the stagnant air just melts you. So I’m blaming his less-than-stellar reaction on the weather. He DID love a lot of the buildings and architecture we saw, and really enjoyed the activities we did, so I think there’s hope  Let me walk you through the day…

We started by walking to San Marco Square and Basilica. Unfortunately, it was under a good bit of construction, but it was still beautiful to see and so much fun to be there. We didn’t let pigeons land on us this time! We then spent time walking around the city, which is so gorgeous and incredibly unique. It’s so much fun to walk over bridges, through historic alleyways, and over canals. There were TONS of people all over the place, and it was fun to just watch, stop into random cathedrals and shops, and explore. By the way, do you notice my red, white, and blue outfit? It was the best I could put together! Happy 4th! Honeymoon_..-22_038.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_039.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_045.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_047.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_058.jpg Honeymoon_..-22_037.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_066.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_068.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_086.jpg

After walking around, we hopped on a gondola, which was so much fun! It is pretty hard work to row a gondola, and there is a TON of “traffic” in some of the more popular canal passageways, so these guys earn their money! While we were in the gondola, we saw a water ambulance speed by, and it really makes you realize that this city is ENTIRELY a water-based city. Pretty crazy! We had a lot of fun in the gondola and took a lot of pictures but here are a few… Honeymoon_..-22_063.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_124.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_130.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_134.jpg

Because we didn’t get to have dinner by the Canal last night, lunch by the Canal and Rialto Bridge today was an absolute must, and lived up to all of our expectations! We were literally sitting one table away from the Canal, and it was fun to watch all the gondolas breeze by. We had to start with caprese salad, which was incredibly fresh and delicious. Kev got the lasagna, which was much better and more fresh than it looks in this picture, and I got an Italian chicken salad (Mom, I thought of you saying “never eat anything larger than your head,” but I just couldn’t help it!) Lunch was very romantic, delicious, and fun! We spent a while walking around Rialto afterwards. Honeymoon_..-22_089.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_094.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_096.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_098.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_105.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_108.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_109.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_117.jpg Honeymoon_..-22_151.jpg

After lunch, we went on a quick Murano glass tour. The glass they spin right here in Venice is absolutely amazing, and they do it so quickly and seemingly effortlessly! The beautiful creations they make are so much fun to look at, and we really enjoyed seeing so many of them. Honeymoon_..-22_101.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_103.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_104.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_082.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_155.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_156.jpg

I love Venice! Honeymoon_..-22_112.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_140.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_142.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_147.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_157.jpg

By this point, we were both incredibly hot – our clothes were thoroughly soaked, which is not good when you’re wearing a white skirt! We scooted back to our hotel, grabbed our luggage, and made our way back through the alleys to the water bus stand. We had to wait 22 minutes in the uncovered heat for this one, but we easily made it on the first bus, so we called it a raging success! We pulled up to the Ruby Princess (our ship), checked our luggage, and boarded, which was again relatively painless. We were so hot that all we wanted was a shower, so we did just that. Our room, by the way, is AMAZING! Because it is our honeymoon, we got upgraded to a room at the back of the ship with a BALCONY! It is going to be amazing to look out of as we sail through the Mediterranean and leave some of our ports of call. The ship is also incredible! It is set up very similarly to the last one, with some different decorations. We gave ourselves a full tour today and saw as much as we could, but we didn’t take many pictures – we have 11 more days to reveal them to you! We did snap a few of the July 4th decorations they have around here (a lot of the passengers seem to be American, and the age range is definitely more what we’re used to than on the last cruise! I’d say we’re on the young side of average here, because there are several families with kids!) Honeymoon_..-22_161.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_164.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_166.jpg

We couldn’t start a cruise without a huge feast for dinner, so strap yourselves in. We started with Thai coconut chicken chili soup (for me), caprese salad (for Kev – no matter that he’d had it 6 hours before!), and shrimp cocktail to share. Then we had tomato-cucumber gazpacho (Kev), house salad (me), and we each had Chateaubriand for an entrée. Everything was amazing! We’ve decided already that the food on this cruise is better than the last one, even! Wow! We finished up with an unphotogenic fruit salad (me), and chocolate fudge peanut butter pie (Kev). All in all, a delicious dinner! Honeymoon_..-22_175.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_176.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_177.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_178.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_179.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_180.jpg

After dinner, we wandered around a bit more, then headed back to write this monster of a blog post. We want to get a lot of sleep and try to fully recover before officially starting our journey tomorrow! We miss you all and Happy 4th of July!!! Honeymoon_..-22_168.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_171.jpgHoneymoon_..-22_172.jpg

Posted by megandkev 13:39 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

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