Italy: Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome

I’ll start by saying that I LOVED Italy. I wish we could have stayed longer; we had to rush through Florence, and completely skipped the south. Next time J.
We began in Venice, one of the most unique cities in the world. We arrived at our hotel by water taxi, which was super easy to figure out. Instead of staying in the super touristy areas, we stayed closer to the train station so we got to see a more genuine Venice. The first day was spent wandering around Murano Island, famous for its glass and glass blowing artists. Just spectacular. I’ve wanted to learn the art before, but now I REALLY want to learn. Our first Italian pizza was also enjoyed here; artichokes, ham, and pepperoni. I think I’m forgetting something. But it was marvelous. I don’t think any food in Italy can taste bad.
Later than night we explored the Rialto Bridge area, had a meal of tortellini (with ham!) and gnocchi, and caught the sunset while being tourists in a gondola. A gondola ride is EXPENNNSIIIVE! Especially at night. But we justified it as “when in Venice” and the fact that we hadn’t spent money on trivial souvenirs.
Day two of Venice consisted of the Accademia (pre-renaissance paintings), the Peggy Guggenheim Art Gallery (absolutely wonderful… A lot of Picassos and Dalis), and lunch at a small, local bar. On our walk back to our hotel, we passed a “wine to go” store. They not only sold bottles like any wine store, but for 1 Euro you could get a cup to go! GENIUS.
We unknowingly booked our trip during the most important and largest celebration of the year in Venice—the Festa del Redentore (Feast of the Most Holy Reedemer). Every third July, there is a giant party in the streets and fireworks over the Grand Canal. The fireworks didn’t start until about 2230, but we were told to go find a spot along the canal early, so we decided to leave around 2000… but we should have left earlier! Luckily we found a café right on the water that was also serving an all-you-can-eat 4-5 course meal plus dessert! Yes, that was also pricey, but…when in Venice?
If you think America knows fireworks for 4thof July… you are wrong. Very, very wrong. After about 15 minutes of impressive fireworks, we were expecting the finale. But every time we thought it was happening, they just kept coming! After another 10 minutes of false finales, we asked the server how long they normally last. 45-60 minutes. FORTY-FIVE TO SIXTY MINUTES. We watched fireworks for about an hour, creating one of the most memorable nights of my life.
By the way, we stayed at Ca’Fontanea, and I highly recommend this place. The staff was wonderful (we wouldn’t have known about the celebration otherwise) and emailed me offering to ship my camera cord that I had left in our room! That’s not even customer service, but being a fantastic person.
We took the train to Florence, which was nice, and right after checking into our hotel, made our way to the Florence Accademia to stare at Mr. David. I knew he was huge, but GOSH HE IS HUGE!! I feel bad for the other works there, because they are completely overshadowed by this magnificent sculpture.
Alex was feeling bad after this (let’s just say tummy problems)… so I ventured on my own to the Ufizzi Gallery. Worth the 1.5 hour wait in line to see Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and La Primavera.
We visited the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral) on our second day, but I didn’t care about the actual church part. I had written a research paper about the Brunelleschi’s Dome (Dome, Sweet Dome) in college, and so I was ECSTATIC to finally get to witness its grandeur in person. The Baptistery was under restoration, but the bronze doors—“Gates of Paradise”—were left exposed for us tourists.
In Florence, we stayed at La Giocanda (where the Mona Lisa was found in 1913 after being stolen in 1911). Yes, I chose the hotel solely based on this.
Later, we made our way to the train station, and after fighting with the ticket machine and sprinting to the other end of the station, we were on our way to Pisa. Everyone I had talked to prior Italy said the same thing: “Pisa is half a day. See the tower and you’re done.” So we spent one night in Pisa, but it was such a quaint little town I would have liked to stay longer. All we did aside from eating was go up the tower and take a million pictures (had to get one JUST right), but I think it would have been nice to walk around more. We did get a chance to explore a little, as it was here when I realized I had left our camera charging cord in Venice. So with the help of Google Maps and Alex’s quick thinking, we were able to find a camera shop that had a universal battery charger. Problem solved!
We stayed at another cute bed and breakfast (Il Toscano B&B) located above a nice restaurant and with a view of the tower.
Lastly, we made our way to our final destination of Italy: ROME. When we arrived, it was raining, but we found our bed and breakfast just fine (B&B San Giovanni in Laterano). The owner, Pasqualino (how’s that for an Italian name??), was just the sweetest man ever. We showed up, and he came running outside, arms waving, like we were his long-lost kids. The he made us Italian espresso (I am addicted now, to all espresso. Ahem, gift idea, ahem…), gave us a map and a coupon for a nearby restaurant, and made sure we were set for the next few days.
So, Rome. Rome, Rome, Rome. I could easily spend another week there. Or month. Or year. We definitely didn’t see all that Rome has to offer, and unfortunately some of what we wanted to see was under restoration (the Trevi Fountain, for example L). We also (I’m so very ashamed to admit this…) completely skipped the museums of the Vatican due to lack of time.
But, what we did see and experience was…I don’t want to say magical because that word is reserved for Harry Potter Land Places, but it was pretty dang close. The historian in me was ridiculously giddy and giggly the entire four days.
One of the things I most enjoyed about Italy was the sunsets. In Venice, Florence, and Pisa, there were many bridges that were perfect for recovering after crazy days filled with exploring and touristing.
I’m not only thankful for the chance to visit such a beautiful country, but also for my history and art-filled education that prepared me for this trip. It is also thanks to my humanities professor, Joseph Thompson (who passed recently), that I was able to experience Italian artwork with such emotion and appreciation.
Water taxi from the airport
Glass Blower on Murano Island
Recognize this from the Italian Job?
Piazza San Marco
You’re pregnant, lol.
St. Maria of Salute Basilica
Gnocchi and tortellini with haaam
Getting ready for the fireworks
The Dome!
Cathedral of Florence
Bell Tower
Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti 
I’m 5’8″ and don’t even reach his toes!
Not-so-famous Pieta
There’s my man! Filippo Brunelleschi!
The Birth of Venus… picture obviously doesn’t do it justice
La Primavera
Look at that slaaaant!
Testaroli al pesto
Take 52
I just wanna eat it…
At the top of the tower… natural tilt!
Look at that sky!
“Put a bird on it!”
Part of Trajan’s Column
The Magnificent Trevi Fountain!
Either she is super oblivious, or super rude.
I think the lamppost makes this photo.
Arch of Constantine
Naughty elephant by Bernini. He was purposely made
to point his booty to whoever walks out
of the monastery next door.
The Pantheon: the one stop god spot for all your
sacrificial needs
Pope’s house
Laocoön and His Sons: Athenodoros, Polydorus, and
Agesander of Rhodes
My girl Clio, the Muse of History
Fancy Porphyry marble
So that’s flat…
Michelangelo’s Pietà
St. Peter’s Square

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