Venice Photo Diary

Our final days of vacation we spent in Venice. Just like the other cities we visited, I can’t put into words how beautiful this city was. I’m a huge fan of being by the water so seeing canals with boats and yachts everywhere we went made me so happy. Here’s what the last few days of our vacation looked like through photos…

 

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Being Venetian in Venice!

Our final stop in Italy included a few nights stay in Venice. I was most looking forward to visiting here because I absolutely love being on the water. When we came out from the train station, the Grand Canal was right there and was it gorgeous to look at! Once we got into a water taxi and cruised the canal, we ended up at our hotel which actually was a centuries old castle converted into travel accommodations. This was one of the most unique places we have ever stayed in, but I’ll be honest and say we’ll just stick to staying at chain hotels from now on.

Our first day in Venice we just wandered the streets and saw what was around the island. To be honest, once we started to explore the island I was a bit disappointed because there’s not a whole lot to do. Don’t get me wrong, there is TONS of history here and many, many churches to tour, but at this point in the trip we were a little bit history-ed out. Nonetheless, although we didn’t discover anything absolutely amazing this first day, it was nice to just walk around and relax for awhile with no plans of anywhere to be.

Hiking in Cinque Terre

If you search Italy on Pinterest, you’re bound to find many pins on there that show gorgeous views of a seaside town with adorable homes built into the cliffs. I never knew the name of this place, but always was fascinated by the beauty of it. We made it a point to travel to the seaside town of Cinque Terre while we were in Italy, and we were were in awe of these towns the entire time we were there.

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Cinque Terre was about 2 hours via bus from Florence, so we got up early and hoped our tour bus to the Italian coast. Once we got there, the bus went up some tall, winding roads and we ended up at the second town of Manarola. From here, we hiked to Corniglia. Yes, hiked..we HIKED between the towns. Now, I’m not sure what I was thinking but I thought a “hike” was a casual walk. Um, no Ashley. It was almost 90 degrees that day, with no wind and I had walking shoes on with some jean shorts and a tank top. I was clearly not prepared for the situation that lay ahead of me.

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When I say hike, I mean we HIKED! We were on the side of the hills, with no railings, so one wrong step and you were rolling down the rocky hills into the water. There was lots of dirt and rocks to navigate our way between. Since I clearly didn’t understand what “hiking” meant, I got a bit cranky with my husband while we were on our trek. Bless his heart for putting up with me that day, because let me tell you, I was not pleasant to be around!

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Our first hike was about 4 miles and we finished in a little over an hour. While I was not the happiest person while I was drenched in sweat, I will say that as we walked along and would catch glimpses of the water and towns below, it was quite unlike any other view I’ve seen before. Numerous times I caught myself standing in awe of what lay below me.

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Our first stop was in Corniglia where we had (surprise) pesto pasta for lunch. Did you know that pesto originated in Cinque Terre? Once our bellies were full and I stopped being hungry (doesn’t everybody get cranky/angry when they’re hungry?)  we started our second hike over to Vernazza. Since this was in the middle of the afternoon, this part of the hike was a bit harder than the first one. After 90 minutes of some more incredible views, we arrived at Vernazza. All of the towns in Cinque Terre are small and colorful. They’re said to each be a different color so that fisherman could identify them when they came back home.

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After having some gelato to cool down and exploring the town, we hoped a train (thank goodness no more hiking!) over to the next town of Monterosso. Here we walked around town, relaxed with a local glass of wine and then indulged in this amazing fried dough ball of cheese and mozzarella goodness. I had no idea what it was called since it was a local dish but it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever had! We ended the day with a boat ride on the coast all the way back to the first town of Riomaggiore.

 

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I cannot say it enough or explain to you the beauty of all of these towns. While I was a hot, cranky mess most of the day and started to regret doing this tour, now that I’m in an air conditioned house, I really enjoyed this day on our trip..in fact it was one of the most amazing tours we’ve ever done!


 

 

 

 

Day #2 in Florence

Our second day in Florence began bright and early as we headed to the Galleria dell’Academia so we could see Michaelangelo’s famous David. WOW, that statue is just spectacular to see in person. The detail work on the statue paired with how perfect the stone still looks is just absolutely amazing to witness. I can’t imagine the time it took for that along with all the other statues we saw there to make. We also took a walk over to the Duomo which is another spectacular site to witness. Being Catholic, I’ve been in a number of churches throughout my life. But nothing in this world compares to the churches and cathedrals all throughout Italy, the Duomo included. The gold mosaics, the statues, the colors and woodwork-it’s all just fascinating to see in person. Suddenly it makes my job as a graphic designer look not so impressive!

That afternoon we went on what was one of my favorite activities of the trip, a Vespa ride through Tuscany. Since we were going to have to navigate our way through Italian traffic before we hit the countryside, I opted to ride along on the back of my husband’s Vespa. I did not trust myself driving among the Italians! Our first stop was the top of a hill in Florence where we not only got to get a quick look around the oldest church in town, but we also got the most beautiful hilltop view of the entire city. Next, we rode through little towns and stopped along the way at an olive grove to view the hills below. The countryside of Tuscany is EXACTLY what you would imagine it to be-it’s beautiful and quiet. After some more riding, we came to a stop at the tour group’s villa in the country where we had, you guessed it, pasta, cheese and wine. I still keep thinking about the views we saw. I wish I could sit on my porch, drink wine and stare at the hills and blue skies all day long!

Tomorrow I’m sharing our day trip to Cinque Terre!

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Exploring Florence

On our fourth day in Italy, we hopped on a train and headed up to Florence. While we liked our time in Rome,  we were looking forward to heading to a city that was smaller and had less people than in Rome.

Once we got to Florence, we quickly got lunch and then headed to the Tuscan Wine School for a wine tasting class. While we like to drink a glass of wine once in awhile, both the hubs and I know absolutely nothing about wine tasting. So when in Italy, learn to taste wine correctly right!? Throughout our 2 hour long class, we learned about the origins of wine around Italy, how to tell the difference between wines and we swirled and tasted 6 different wines. I was never a big red wine drinker, I always preferred the sweet, white kinds prior to this. But, this class taught me to appreciate a good red wine and I’m not a convert to Chianti wine. IMG_0260 IMG_0274 DSC_0763

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After our class, we strolled around Florence and climbed to the top of the city to find Pizzale Michaeangelo. It’s a beautiful plaza area that overlooks the entire city. Did you know that Florence grew from east to west? Yep, if you go 10 minutes south or north of Florence then you’re in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. And you’re able to view the city and country all from the top of this plaza. Let me tell you, it’s absolutely stunning up there! I’ll be honest and admit I wasn’t super excited about Florence as I was about Venice and Rome, but Florence quickly became my FAVORITE city we visited on vacation. Every corner you turned there was a new piazzale or square or church and every time I said “WOW” out loud. This city seriously left me breathless and in awe.

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Capri

On our third day of vacation, we took a day trip to Capri. We were really looking forward to it because we’ve heard how beautiful it was there and both of us love being by the water so we were anxious to get to the island. Unfortunately for us, this ended up being our least favorite day of vacation. It took over 4 hours to get there (we traveled via bus then a water ferry) and once we got there, the island was so crowded! After we returned back to Rome that night, we found out that the reason there were so many people in Capri that day was because the next day was when Roman kids started back to school so many families were enjoying one last weekend holiday. While in Capri, we took a glider ride to the top of the island which has breathtaking views. I love being by the ocean so being on top and watching all of the boats below was an incredible thing to see. Sadly, that’s about all this island has. It’s tiny, crowded and it feels so touristy. But, we’re glad we got the chance to experience it while we were there. As they say, when in Rome! IMG_0196 DSC_0430 DSC_0443 DSC_0467 DSC_0484 DSC_0487 DSC_0491 DSC_0494   DSC_0500 DSC_0510 IMG_0219 DSC_0542 IMG_0227 DSC_0547 DSC_0594 DSC_0606 DSC_0614 DSC_0629 DSC_0632 DSC_0655 DSC_0724

ROME : Photo Diary of the Vatican and Colosseum

Since the husband took over 7,000 photos of our trip, I figured it would best to show you in pictures all of the fun things we did while on vacation. These are some of my favorite photos from our first full day of vacation while in Rome. We toured the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Pantheon. St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is one of the most incredible churches I have ever stepped in. all of the architecture and attention to detail is just the most amazing sight you have ever seen. It’s amazing how beautiful all of these things can look so incredible even hundreds of years later. DSC_0229 DSC_0237 DSC_0243 DSC_0185 DSC_0263 IMG_0134 IMG_0135 DSC_0283 DSC_0285 DSC_0291 DSC_0295 DSC_0296 DSC_0303 IMG_0155 IMG_0169 DSC_0349 DSC_0368

Food Lover’s Guide To Rome :: Eating Italy Tour

One of the things we were most looking forward to on our Italian vacation was the Rome food tour. We booked it prior to traveling and it was rated one of the best things to do in Rome. And since we’re both foodies and love to try new things, this was right up our alley!

We booked the Twilight Trastevere Food Tour. This 4-hour tour took us to a neighborhood in Rome called Trastevere. It’s a hip and happening area that comes alive at night and locals compare it to being like Greenwich Village or Paris’s Left Bank. Although it’s a trendy area, this old neighborhood features some of the BEST and most historic food in Rome including locally owned places run by families that have been around for generations.

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On the way to our tour where walked over the oldest bridge in all of Italy!

Our tour began in Isola Tiberina and after learning a bit more about the island, we headed to our first stop, Da Enzo Al 29. All Romans begin their dinner with an aperitif (aka appetizer) and here we tried their famous fried artichoke. This was just to die for. I love to eat artichokes on my pizza and this was fried and salty goodness.

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Next, we walked down the road to Spirito Di Vino. This restaurant is an old synagogue that has a wine cellar that is 160 years older than the Colosseum. It was so interesting to sit in the wine cellar and hear about the history of that room. Here we sampled wine and had some more appetizers, and I learned that I actually like red wine! I’ve always been a sweet, white wine kind of girl, but the Italian in me learned what I had been missing out on!

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Stop number 3 took us to Biscottificio Innocenti, aka the cookie factory! Biscotti is obviously the Italian form of cookies, which they always had a plethora available during breakfast at our hotel..cookies for breakfast? Heck yeah! This family-owned shop bakes all of their goodies in a massive oven that is more than 60 years old! The result is delectable cookies with all different flavors from sugar to chocolate to lemon.

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Walking off some of the calories we’ve already eaten, our next venture took us to Antica Caciara. Basically, this is the local meat and cheese shop. There were TONS of meats to choose from and here we sampled what has become my new favorite cheese, pecorino. Once we were back in the states, I scoured local grocery stores until I found some. Granted, the Italians make it better but it’s still just as good to eat. The owner of the store works everyday and his family has owned it since 1900..what hard work and dedication that is!

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Stop number 5 was right down the street at I Suppli, which is a street food snack shop. I’d equate this to being similar to a fast food restaurant. There was LOTS of pizza to go around here, but we didn’t sample pizza here. Instead we got a taste of suppli, which is a fried ball filled with risotto, tomato sauce and cheese. It’s similar to a mozzarella stick, but let’s face it, it tastes WAY better than that! I’ve already scoured Pinterest to find a recipe for it so I can try to recreate it (but let’s face it, I have A LOT of Pinterest fails-fingers crossed this one goes well!)

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Enough with the snacking already, time to get down to some bigger meals! Next we walked over to La Renella, a local bakery and pizzeria. They have an oven that dates back to 1860, and they bake 2900 loaves of bread EVERYDAY! Oddly enough, the night we were there, the owner came out of the back filled in soot from head to toe. He’s 83 years old and had just gotten back from his holiday to discover the oven wasn’t working and he just climbed in the oven to try to fix it. WOW! These Italians have some AMAZING work ethic! While we didn’t taste bread here, we had some margherita pizza, my fav! The Italians like their pizza to have thin crust so it’s much different eating it there than in America. Want to know how to know if you’re eating real pizza in Italy? Real pizzerias will have their pizza laid out in long rectangles and you pay but the pound of pizza. Non-authentic pizzerias will already have the pizza sliced for you in their display case.

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Our second to last stop took us for dinner at Enoteca Ferrara. What I found most interesting about the local restaurants in Rome is how all of them look the same from the front. Each one is tiny, seating only 2 dozen people at the most and there’s nothing special from the front. Enter inside one though and you’ll get some serious family cooking and a long, relaxing meal with no worries of a waiter trying to rush you out the door for their next patron. And, Italians eat LATE. Many places are open for lunch and then close until dinner and re-open at 7:30pm. Many nights we didn’t eat dinner until at least 9:30 pm.

At this stop we sampled gnocchi, spinach and ricotta ravioli and black pepper spaghetti. Eating homemade fresh pasta is just freaking delicious. I love to eat pasta and I know eating my frozen Costco ravioli just won’t be the same now that I’m back home!

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And no dinner would be complete without gelato! Our last stop took us to Fatamorgana, a local gourmet gleataria. My favorite ice cream is a Dairy Queen dipped cone, but this came in a close second. This place had some crazy flavors, including rose buds and basil, but I stuck to the typical chocolate and vanilla. Here we learned how to tell the different between real and fake gelato. Fake gelato will be shown as HUGE mounds in the display case which means it has too much air in it. Another way to tell it’s fake? If it’s bright or neon colors.

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And that was the end of our first night in Rome! I think this was a great way to start out our vacation because we learned a lot about where to eat and what to look for in authentic local food. This tour group has locations all over Europe, so I would highly suggest checking out one of their tours if you’re in one of the local areas!

QUESTION // What’s your favorite pasta dish to eat?

Ciao Roma!

Ciao! I’m back from Italy and what an AMAZING time the husband and I had over the 11 days we were gone. This was our first time going to Europe and a first time trip for us being tourists the entire time. All of our previous vacations included going to the beach so this was a different experience for us. While we had lots of fun exploring new things and seeing some of the most amazing ancient sites in the world, we came home quite exhausted. I need a vacation from vacation now!

We traveled to Rome, Florence and Venice with a couple of day trips in there as well to Capri and Cinque Terre. Pair all of those cities with my photographer husband who loves to shoot photos and that means we have over 6700 photos of this vacation! Needless to say, I have A LOT to recap with you all!

Our trip started out on Thursday September 11. We were so excited to get on the plane and get going! Unfortunately though, within an hour of being at the airport, our plans completely changed. Our flight to Newark was delayed which meant we were going to miss our connection to Rome. Cue a panic moment from wifey right here. Right away my husband and I got to talking to the gate agent and spent almost 2 hours on the phone with United getting re-routed. Instead of getting there at 7:45 am, we would arrive a few hours later. While I was bummed we’d miss out a whole extra day in Rome to ourselves, I was just glad we’d get there at some point the following day. Now our travels took us to Chicago, followed by Frankfurt and finally ending up in Rome at 2 pm on Friday. It was a long day of travel, but we were so happy to be there!

We kicked off Friday night with a food tour of Rome which was not only fun to learn about food but it was so delicious and fun to eat like a local! Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing highlights from it :) QUESTION // Have you ever had any travel snafus before?