Venice, Florence, and Rome: the trip of a lifetime

Thursday, August 1, 2013

You might recall that we have been a tad busy since May, planning for old and new jobs, old and new houses, and old and new cities of residence. But in the middle of it all, we had a 9 day trip to Italy that had already been planned for the beginning of July.

We decided to keep the original dates of the trip because 1) if not now, when? and 2) we had been talking about taking this trip for no less than 2 years; and 3) I had already taken the time off of work; and 4) some of our hotel rooms were non-refundable (the true deciding factor). So away we went, on an excursion to some of the most romantic and amazing cities that Europe and the world have to offer: Venice, Florence and Rome. 

We left on June 30 from Charlotte, to connect in Philly for our light to Venice to begin our trip. Well, thanks to US Airways and their Charlotte gate crew delaying our flight for no apparent reason (they said it was weather, which then turned to air traffic, which then turned to "we're not even sure - we just feel like making you sit here"), we missed our flight to Venice and ended up taking a Tour de Europe: Charlotte to Philly, then to London, then to Frankfurt, and then FINALLY to Venice. After about 24 hours of travel, we got to Venice but of course, our bags did not. In fact, US Airways/Lufthansa (we had switched airlines at some point on our magical mystery tour) were not even showing the bags in their system. Anywhere. In the world. 

Let me tell you, folks: when you've been traveling for 24 hours, all you want is YOUR shampoo and YOUR deodorant and some clean clothes. (Actually, at that point, I would have taken anyone's deodorant). Alas, all Alex and I had with us was contact solution, toothbrushes and toothpaste. I had a fresh shirt and undies, while all Alex had was an extra pair of boxers. 

Suffice it to say that the next 24 hours without our baggage was tough, but we persevered and made it through. (And for the record, we purchased some unisex Italian deodorant to aide in our survival)

But once we came back to our hotel after a day of sightseeing in Venice and our hotelier said "Your bags have arrived!," things started to look up. And the rest of the trip was a dream years in the making.

July 1 - July 3
We arrived in Venice, as I mentioned, downtrodden and a wee bit tired from bouncing between 5 airports and 4 flights on our trip over. But, wow, Venice is so magical. It is THE place for romance. I studied abroad in Italy (Florence to be exact) in 2006, and when we took a side trip to Venice for 2 days, I swore I would come back one day with the one I loved and take a gondola ride. So I made good on that promise to myself!

We stayed at Hotel Al Ponte Antico and I HIGHLY recommend it. We splurged on this place but I'm so glad we did. The staff was incredibly friendly, had chilled proseco waiting for us in our room upon arrival, and even handled our misplaced baggage junk with the airline for us. Plus, the rooms are decorated like a palatial slice of heaven and the terrace (open to all guests) overlooks the Grand Canal. WORTH EVERY PENNY.

Some highlights of our time in Venice!
Cheers - we made it! (Can you tell how exhausted we are??)

The Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge

In St. Marks Square

Proseco on our hotel's terrace

One of the best sights we saw in Venice: our bags!!

Ready for a romantic night out in Venice!

Our view from the gondola

On the gondola


July 3 - July 5
Florence is fantastic, but I'm a little biased since that was home base for my study abroad in the summer of 2006. But I think if you like art, picturesque landscapes, wine or gelato, you will love Florence. So really, what's not to love? We arrived via train from Venice, and found that our hotel was right next to the Duomo, which means an insanely good location (thank you, Rick Steves!). We stayed at the appropriately-named Hotel Duomo and while the room was fine, the location was mind-blowing. In Florence, we took in a ton of art and culture, including Bruneleschi's dome and Michelangelo's David, drank Chianti on our hotel room terrace, and ate lots of gelato.

We've arrived in Florence!

Taking in the view from afar

Two thumbs up for limoncello

Gelato. 'Nuff said. 

Wine on the terrace with an amazing view. And yes, I came prepared with our own cups. 

Florence and her Duomo: the essence of the Renaissance

Yep, that would be our hotel right next to the Duomo!

July 5 - July 8
Rome was our last stop on our trip through Italy. We again took the train, and enjoyed the Tuscan landscape go by on the way from Florence. Our hotel, Hotel Nazionale, was once again in a kick-butt location and was within walking distance to literally everything in Rome, which is tough to do considering Rome's size! The cherry on top was when our bellhop opened our window to reveal a view of St. Peter's in the distance. Amazing. We spent our days taking in the wonders that Rome offers: Vatican City and St. Peter's, the Colosseum and Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona, and a healthy dose of carbs in the form of endless amounts of bruschetta, pasta, pizza and yes, more gelato. We had a very humbling experience in St. Peters's, where we paused to pray in the spot where St. Peter was crucified. We had one of those "wow, this stuff is seriously OLD as in ancient" moments in the Forum, walking on the very paths where Roman civilization's founders and leaders walked. Rome is incredible in every way.

The view from our room with St. Peter's in the distance

In Piazza Navona

The Pantheon

The Pantheon at night
Just hanging on the Spanish Steps

On our way to Vatican City, in the background

The Vatican and St. Peter's
inside St. Peter's Basilica

at the Trevi Fountain

More gelato. Don't judge.

Inside the Colosseum

the Roman Forum

The Colosseum: the hallmark of Rome


Our trip was, in a word, outstanding. If I could change anything, it would be to stay longer and have unlimited spending money (to shop in those Italian designers' stores, sigh). But the real world called us home.

Experiencing Italy 7 years after I was there for study abroad (when I was 21) with Alex was incredible. So much has changed in my life in those 7 years - most of all, my perspective. But that didn't harm the way I experienced Italy this go 'round. If anything, it enlightened me and helped me get even more out of it.

I always imagined I would go back to Italy with my husband one day - and that day came! Being there with Alex was so, so wonderful. It was the trip of a lifetime!

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