Rome for the architecture, Florence for the art and Venice for the...well for being Venice
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
Final masters paper handed in and Craig & I almost immediately get on a plane bound for Europe. We (mostly Craig) had been planning this trip for a long time and we were eagerly waiting to go. Long days of sitting and writing our Masters Capstone was fuelled by knowing when it was done we were heading abroad. Our plan was a week in England, 10 days in Italy (Rome, Florence & Venice), 10 days in Switzerland (Geneva, Interlaken & area, Bern, Winterthur & area), followed by 2 days in Iceland.
For the first week we head to Bolton, England to visit Craig’s parents. As always it was great spending time with them and taking it easy. Our days were filled with going to the Bolton gym (the garage) and going for walks around the neighbourhood and local areas as well as seeing Craig’s brother and his family.
Always wanting to do something new, when travelling to places we've been before, I thought it would be cool to checkout the Lake District about 2 hours north. The week before leaving, while standing in the grocery store line up I picked up National Geographics 100 most beautiful places and started perusing. The Lake District was one of those places!
The roads were windy and lined with beautiful brick walls as we exited the M6. Our plan was to do a hike that was challenging and had beautiful vistas but not too long as Craig’s parents were with us and would be waiting for us while we hiked. The hike Craig chose was Aira Force which overlooked Ullswater Lake and included Gowbarrow Point. The weather was perfect-overcast and slightly cool as we started our accent. The 1st part of the trail takes you past a waterfall and through a tree covered gully before sending you off over the moors. The halfway point, and a much needed breakpoint, was Gowbarrow. From there it was all down hill with stunning views of the lake. It took us about 2 hours to hike and was exactly what we were hoping for.
To finish off our week in England Craig’s mom planned a family BBQ which was a fantastic way to see his family (some of which I met for the 1st time).
Goodbye England Ciao Italy!
The next leg of our journey was Italy where we visited Rome, Florence and Venice. Rome for the architecture, Florence for the art and Venice for the...well for being Venice ALL for the culture, wine and food!
The flight from Manchester to Rome was about 2.5 hours. The week leading up to our departure was a bit nerve wrecking as our airline, Ryanair, was periodically striking. Luck for us our flight wasn’t affected but we did have the most wildly loud and vivacious group of teenagers on our plane so we were thankful the flight was not very long.
We arrived late at night in the dark and took a taxi from the airport to our Airbnb right in the city centre. Taxis from the airport are a flat fee of 30 euro’s anywhere in the city-don't let anyone scam you into paying more.
Our little apartment was perfect. Not very big but had everything we need including a grocery store just 2 blocks away. Neither of us were very tired so we checked out our neighbourhood which included the Spanish steps.
The next morning we got up early and travelled by foot to the Colosseum for our 8:30am entry reservation. There are 3 lines: those for reservations no printed tickets, prepaid reservation with ticket and buying tickets day of. Thankfully we had prepaid and printed out tickets and booked for an early time as the other lines were incredibly long-especially the no ticket line and by 10:00 there was an announcement saying no more entry until people started leaving. The colosseum is impressive inside and out. Not as large as I imagined but incredible just the same.
Craig and I met up with friends that we had met when travelling in Africa and it was a real treat to get to spend time with them again. They booked tickets as well for the Colosseum at the same time so as we explored the building we also got to catch up and hangout. Afterwards we stopped for a quick shared lunch and then headed to a cat sanctuary they had heard about. Like us they are huge animal advocates
On the way we stopped for some gelato it was so delicious and DAIRY FREE!!-which was hard to believe because it was so rich and creamy.
Torre Argentina cat sanctuary works in collaboration with AISPA to help 100’s of sick and injured cats with the medical treatments they need as well as spaying and neutering feral cats to help control their population. You can adopt a cat or donate to their efforts in person or online.
As the midday sun rose so did the temperature!! We decided to grab a quick slice of pizza and head back for a mid day siesta after we made plans to meet back up for dinner later in the Trastevere district.
On our way home we basically stumbled into the Pantheon. I couldn’t let the opportunity to go inside escape me so we filtered in with the other tourists. As we walked in the opening in the ceiling cast a beam of light along the wall to our left illuminating a statue and its surrounding wall. The buildings beauty caught me by surprise. I knew it would be beautiful to see in real life but it actually took my breath away.
We had dinner at a typical Italian trattoria in the Trastevere District, on the west bank of River Tiber which cuts through Rome. The pasta and wine was great but the company was better!
The following morning we headed to the Vatican City the hope was to see St. Peter’s Basilica before our 9:00 entry to the Vatican museum but it was insanely busy (not sure if it’s an everyday summer thing or if it was a special religious holiday but there were TONS of church groups there) so we decided to just head over to the museum and do St. Peter’s the next morning.
The Vatican museum was outstanding. Unlike the tour groups, Craig and I took our time meandering through all the exhibits before entering the Sistine Chapel. My favourite was seeing Laocoon & his Sons and for Craig it was the Galleria delle Carte Geografiche (map gallery). Again the tour groups piled into and out of the Sistine Chapel so quickly I think they barely had time to see the Creation of Adam before being whisked out the door. Along the edge of the chapel are benches and we were lucky enough to get a seat and take our time gazing at Michelangelo’s amazing work. No photography allowed. Having the time to sit allowed us to really admire the detail.
That evening we headed out again with our friends Jules and Reid to Pigneto in the hopes of finding a vegan restaurant. Both So What? and Alvaredo were both closed so instead we enjoyed a cocktail and headed to a street covered in bars where we found one that had vegan burgers. After we enjoyed a few more cocktails and lots of laughs before saying goodbye and parting ways-promising to meet again on future travels...little did we know that would be sooner then expected!
The next morning we weren’t able to get up very early or easily as we got home late from the night before. Once we did we travelled by foot to the Vatican City where we waited in line to see St. Peter’s church. After cutting in line (I know not good but seriously there were so many tour groups we would have waited 4 hours to get in) we headed inside to see the Pieta. To our dismay it was curtained off. The church was stunning and we were both glad we came although a bit disappointed not seeing Michelangelo's sculpture but thankful we didn’t wait in the line too long.
Afterwards we walked through Rome to check out Trevi Fountain. It was by far one of my favourite sights. I have seen pictures of the fountain but you never get to see the massive amount of people there, it was insane!!!! Craig and I did manage to get near the front to take a couple photos and make a wish.
On the way back to our place we grabbed a gelato and walked by the Spanish Steps-they were rammed with tour groups, although I think they are always rammed, so we didn’t stay long.
The next morning we boarded the train to Florence. As the train travelled through the Tuscan countryside the rolling hill landscape was dotted with long standing wineries and small picturesque farms.
Our Airbnb was not far from the train station and although we arrived early our host allowed us to leave our bags so we could explore the city without them. Narrow curved streets with yellow painted stone buildings with store and restaurants below and residence above all lead to either a beautiful Palazzo’s, Cattedrale, Galleria’s or Basilica’s.
With a lust for art we headed to the Accademia Gallery where Michelangelo’s David is housed. Again we were happy to have time stamped tickets so we didn’t have to wait in line. The gallery is not large it’s main attraction being the David. For many years the statue had adorned Piazza della Signoria but was moved inside and a replica put in its place. The corridor leading to the statue is lined with 6 of Michelangelo’s unfinished statues. It appears as if they are all trying to break out of the stone with David being the only one to do so. He was incredible and breathtaking.
The next day was our one full day in Florence and our only real plan was to check out the Uffizi Gallery. Inside we saw works by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo to name a few. Lonely Planet said to give yourself 4 hours but we only took about 2.5 and left feeling we had had enough.
The rest of the day was filled with wandering the streets and picking up groceries for lunch and dinner. Being foodies and on a budget we knew we could make our own delicious Italian food back at our Airbnb that was exactly what we wanted, using the same fresh ingredients but for ½ or a ¼ of the price-Gelato being the exception!!!
We arrived in Venice by train around 11:00. It is exactly like what you see in movies. Building edges directly line the canals. Many of the walk ways lead to dead ends or canals and others labyrinth to the most beautiful squares or bridges. Gondolas galore fill the tiny canals with tourists taking selfies and Instagram shots. Neither Craig or I took a bad photo it was that beautiful and unique it certainly feels a long way from home, in a good way.
Our Airbnb hosts met us and eagerly welcomed us in. It was a nice touch starting our visit with prosecco but we were ready to begin exploring so we headed out pretty quickly. The place we stayed was in a great area but the living space was actually really small, no air conditioning in our room (terrible for Craig) and was shared so no real use of the kitchen and living room. The first afternoon we took lots of pictures of the famous sites; Rialto bridge, St. Marco’s square, grand canal and the bridge of sighs. After exploring we returned to our place to get changed and headed right out for aperitifs and dinner.
We didn’t want to head home because we knew it would be a hard sleep so we grabbed a couple drinks and sat by the canal which was a wonderful way to finish the day.
The next day we took it slower and Craig took his time capturing more artistic shots. We enjoyed our Co-op (grocery store) lunch along the canal and ate gelato (shocking, I know!). We were stoked to realize our friends Jules & Reid were heading to Venice before going home to Australia so we actually got to spend another evening with them so we took advantage of it by going to Pub Venezia for some craft beers, Bella & Brava for pizza & Baccaro jazz bar for drinks. Another great...and late night out with our buddies.
Our flight to Geneva didn’t leave until 7:30pm so luck for us our Airbnb host allowed us to leave our bags so we didn’t have to carry them all day or head to the airport early to wait. We spent another day exploring a bit more and just hanging along the edge of the grand canal reading our books and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the city. Getting to the airport was fun and easy. We caught a boat that was close to where we were staying that took about 30 minutes and was a neat way to see Venice from the ocean and wave Italy goodbye.