Even though the airline lost our luggage for 3 days and we had quite the adventure without it...we still had lots of fun!
Our first stop was Verona for dinner and to see the Juliet balcony from Romeo and Juliet. We enjoyed the river and Piazza (square) with a 1700's fountain and market. We had our first taste of real Italian pizza! Then we drove to Sermione near Lake Garda, a beautiful lake. We stayed at a cute, quaint hotel right on the lake, and toured a castle, strolled on the shore, shopped and ate pizza and our first of many gelato's!
We headed to Pisa next, and saw the world famous leaning tower. It truly is an odd building, that leans more than it looks in pictures! We had fun walking around the square and enjoying pasta. We then found the equivalent of a glorified dollar store to do our shopping for clothes (remember, no luggage!!!) We found it ironic that here we were in Italy, world renowned for shopping, and we were buying clothes at the "PAM" or maybe the "Shopko" of Pisa. Oh well, it's a story right!!!
Next we drove our "BEAUTIFUL" white Mercedes van into the Tuscany region. The views are literally breath taking, the rolling hills, the little hill towns with their church towers, the hill top castles. It is, in a word, exquisite!
We came to our beautiful hotel in San Quirico, a tiny walled town. We loved it here and thoroughly enjoyed our day trips to Multipulciano, San Gimigniano, Pienza, Corona, Sienna, and Florence. They all had an impact on me, the beautiful view of Tuscany from the highest hill town of Multipulciano and it's gorgeous tiny cemetary at sunset, with a view of the palace below that glowed golden. The 13th century towers of San Gimigniano, the grace, innocence and pure brilliance of Michaelangelo's David in Florence, as well as the Arno river. Driving in Florence was not my favorite, I'm glad it was Jon, and not me! The roads are extremely narrow and there's signs that say not to enter without a permit. Well, we entered anyway (since we trusted our handy little GPS) and we probably incurred $4-500 in tickets!!! After we got out of the terror, I thoroughly enjoyed this amazing city and it's museums, Duomos' (cathedrals) and shops!
After our memorable days in Tuscany we drove to Rome. I had very mixed feelings about Rome, because our last trip there was not my favorite. I had no intentions of ever going back, but I'm so glad I did! Driving in Rome, is, in a word, RIDICULOUS!!!!!!! After quite a circus, we arrived at the Vatican. Having been there before, I was somewhat prepared, and a little cynical. However, I had a totally different opinion this time. We had a wonderful tour guide, who had a passion for art and really taught us a lot about the sculptures, paintings and symbolism. The Sistine Chapel is awe inspiring, it would take weeks to appreciate everything that is painted on the ceiling and walls. I truly believe that Michaelangelo was an inspired man. We enjoyed seeing St Peter's Cathedral and strolling around Rome at night! Lucky us, we stayed in a hotel right in front of the Trevi Fountain, which, late at night and early in the morning, without the huge crowds, is absoloutely beautiful! We saw the Colosseum and Old Rome the next day, there is so much to see and learn in this old, cultural city.
We headed to Venice for the last 3 days, and again, the traveling in this car-less city was interesting! I absoloutely loved this crumbling old place!!! It really is like stepping back in time to a whole different world. We were able to travel across the Lagoon to see the sea towns of Murano, with it's glass blowing factory, and Burano, with it's lace makers and brightly colored houses. We enjoyed riding the canal on a Gondola, complete with a whistling, sometimes singing, Gondolier. We got crazily lost in the small, winding, old streets, lined with shops, old stone buildings, cafe's and the occasional church. St Marks square and church in the main piazza of Venice is like nothing I've ever seen before. The inside is all mosaics and mostly in gold. The detail is intricate, it's the only cathedral I've actually felt reverent in. We toured the Doge's palace, (the Doge was like the emperor) and played with huge, very tame pigeons that landed on our arms, thinking they would get food!
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip. The food was good, the people are friendly, polite, helpful and kind! The history is so rich and almost hard to understand, there's so much of it!!! We so loved this trip, loved the friends we went with, loved the time together, loved the experience we had.
Italy is one of the places on this earth that truly is gorgeous and beckoning. I can't wait to go back!!! Traveling helps us broaden our horizons and realize that our way is not the ONLY way to live. I love learning and going to these "foreign" places because it's there we realize that we are actually "foreign" too and that we can learn so much from other people and places! Neither is right or wrong, neither is better than the other. We are just different and we can embrace those differences! I hope to embrace as much of it as possible!!!