Italian City Slicking
We made the obligatory Venice and Rome stops during our trip to Italy. Being that we aren’t big city people we spent only 2 days in Venice and 5 days in Rome.
Venice is a place you need to see once in your life. And maybe just once. At one time Venice was a major shipping port, and its control over much of the Mediterranean industry made it quite the powerhouse. The ports still bring in a lot of money – now in the form of cruise ships delivering tourists by the thousands. As Venice is a fairly small city, these crowds make it mostly unbearable during the day. Thankfully, our hotel was well situated in San Marco, allowing us to escape the crowds and enjoy this beautiful city during the off-peak hours.
We loved Venice most during the early morning hours. Each day we headed into the narrow, winding alleys shortly after sunrise. This is a really special hour as we had the streets mostly to ourselves – aside from the locals delivering food giving a glimpse into how the city functions. We wandered through an empty St. Mark’s square, around Doge’s Palace including an overlook of the Bridge of Sighs, and across Rialto Bridge. We managed to be the first to enter Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica (one each day) and had these spectacular sites mostly to ourselves. Each morning after taking in Venetian extravagance at its finest, we would walk back into the square (now overwhelmed with people) and knew it was time to return to the hotel for some peace and quiet.
Our afternoons were spent wandering alleys far from San Marco. Venice is such a unique place in that there are no cars and really no crime. We felt completely safe disappearing and figuring out where we had ended up after the fact. It really was an amazing way to enjoy the city.
Overall, we were happy to check Venice off our bucket list. However, we found the crowds to be overwhelming, food to be underwhelming, and t-shirt shops overbearing – we don’t anticipate a return visit.
We spent five days total in Rome flanking our trip to the Amalfi Coast. Rome is such a cool city and we loved seeing how the Ancient city meets the Modern city.
During our first segment we stayed in a small hotel in the Trastavere neighborhood. This stretch fell after 2 weeks of near constant movement and we were relieved to have 3 nights in one place. Needless to say, we took the R&R this offered to heart, and hardly escaped our neighborhood during our stay.
Trastavere is a very cute neighborhood that was recommended to us by our friend Catia. It features cobble-stoned pedestrian streets, great restaurants, and tap houses with microbrews. Our first night we were elated to scarf down microbrews and burgers, but uncomfortable to be surrounded by all Americans in a foreign city. We must have taken America 2.0 to heart, however, as the following night we headed to a sports bar in central Rome for NFL games. We were so very happy to watch football, eat nachos and drink (lots of) beer, but we paid the price the following morning. That afternoon we pulled ourselves together to attend a city walking and driving tour with the tour group “The Roman Guy”. This was an excellent introduction to the city and we visited countless Roman historical sites – the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the Spanish Steps to name a few. We had an excellent tour guide and were excited by this sneak preview of our return to Rome, for which we had booked an Airbnb in Central Rome.
We escaped to the Amalfi Coast for 6 days and then returned to Rome. During the second leg of our trip we stayed in an airbnb nearby Camp d’Fiori, right in the heart of the historical district. Our apartment was great for its amenities and we loved the location for its ease of exploration! I was craving a home-cooked meal and especially hopeful for some Mexican food, so attempted to make chicken quesadillas. Being that we were in Rome, the “tortillas” were actually flat pizza crusts; hence I actually made a pizza-dilla for our first dinner. Nonetheless it was nice to feel somewhat at home while traveling abroad.
Our intense tourist/gaper day fell on our final day in Rome. We did an additional two tours with the Roman Guy, visiting the Vatican City in the morning and Colosseum in the afternoon. Vatican City was very impressive but could be quite overwhelming, so we were very happy to have gone with a tour guide. Prior to our entry (we went on the earliest tour so we could skip the lines) she explained the background on the Sistine Chapel, which allowed us to get the most out of the incredible frescos painted by Michelangelo. During this three-hour visit we visited all the must-do sites, but most enjoyed the Sistine Chapel, map room, and rooms featuring works by Rafael.
That afternoon we headed to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Having had a preview on our city tour the previous week, we were very excited to see these ruins firsthand. Unfortunately, our tour guide was horrific and we left more confused than we entered. We still enjoyed seeing these ancient sites, and from eavesdropping on other tours we learned about the Ancient Roman city and the Colosseum where gladiators used to fight for the entertainment of the elite. It really put the movie Gladiator in perspective, and brought to our attention that we need to watch this movie together as Katie hated it (too gory) and Chris loved it (Russell Crowe is such a badass).
We enjoyed our final pasta dinner that evening, and after 3 weeks bid Italy goodbye. We had such an amazing time in Italy thanks to friendly Italians, delicious food, and amazing scenery. We certainly will return someday, but for now it’s off to Croatia!