Monday, July 8, 2013

Italy: June 2013

Well I'm back, safe and sound! What an amazing experience this trip was?! It was so great to see Patricia, she actually screamed when she saw me and cried- of course. She is truly a great friend and I'm so glad I had this opportunity. And to see the wedding- WOW! So interesting and beautiful. Lari was everything the pictures promised and more. So here's how it all went:

The flights on Tuesday to Wednesday were smooth sailing and we landing only 15minutes behind schedule. We hopped a taxi and headed straight to the apartment, which turned out to be a real gem! The place wasn't glamorous or even very large, but it fit our needs just find and really forced us to become familiar with the bus system. That was great, we felt like locals by the 2nd day.
After settling, unpacking and taking a short nap we hit the town. The leaning tower is so... white and clean. The area around it was amazing as well. Holly bought some art and we wondered down some winding streets to find a little restaurant. It was a great day and on the way home we stop by the grocery store!
Now I know what you're thinking- "What's so exciting about a grocery store?" but that is one of my favorite things to see in a foreign country. It really let's you see how they live, what they eat. For example, they have huge butcher section since most people buy fresh cut meats- not frozen. And the deli section? So many types of Salami that I've never even heard of! It's really amazing to me.

The 2nd day was our trip to Rome and while the city may not have been built in one day, we did a pretty good job of conquoring it in that short amount of time! We stuck to the route I had already planned- see the previous post about planning excursions- but we ended up doing it in reverse. We had heard that the Colosseum would get busier as the day went on so we decided to hit that first. Then it was off to the Pantheon and Campo dei Fiori. Another traveler told us we couldn't miss the Forum and it was right next to the Pantheon so it wasn't like it was out of the way. Then the day ended with brief stops at the Vatican City and the Trevi Fountain. Here's my piece of art-

On Friday, the day before the wedding we went on this big adventure of Public Transit to visit Lari. The Bride and Groom had some tours planned for their guests and we didn't want to miss the experience! Still we were almost out 40Euros because we didn't know we needed to validate our train tickets.* Then we waited several minutes for our Bus connection and I thought Holly was going to have a heartattack on the bus from the narrow roads and Italian drivers! However, once we got there it was the most amazing day! The countryside views from the village are some of the most breathtaking we saw.
*Italy sells two types of train tickets- Instant and Commuter. This is an awesome option for its locals, however for travelers it can be confusing. An Instant ticket must be use for the exact train it was sold for or it is no longer vaild, where a Commuter ticket can be sold for a destination but can be used at any time within 30 days. Once you have decided to use that ticket it must be punched and validated... we did NOT know this last bit.
Once we were there, Patricia and Semir had 3 tours and a meal planned out for us. It was really considerate of them to plan these outings for their guests! We toured the local Butcher shop, Italy's smallest pasta factory, and an All-Orangic Vineyard- where they still cut every vine by hand!!!! It was really fantastic and it all tied back together with the wedding, because they were using items from each location.

Saturday was the day of the wedding and we rented a car. Italian driving is something I am familiar with from last summer so I was well prepared, poor Holly was not. Still our little Fiat 500 handled those little roads just fine! We reached the wedding and enjoyed a beautiful evening of Italian and German hospitality. It was the highlight of the trip.

Still with all the beauty of Lari, I think Florence turned out to be our hidden gem on this adventure! We could have easily spend another 3 days there. All the museums and piazzas! It was spectacular and the day flew by. My favorite part was the view from the lounge at the top of the Continental Hotel- a tip we received from a fellow traveler. It has a nearly 360 degree view of Florence! I also recommend the mojito. ;)

All in all it was a wonderful trip. I had the opportunity to travel with a good friend and the blessing to visit another. PLUS! The Vatican puts me one country closer to my goal: 30 before 30. Only 8 more to go! I'm thinking Greece, Croatia, and Turkey might be next. Then Australia and New Zealand, which would leave China, Japan, and Cambodia for my 30th birthday! I'm liking the sound of that.

Happy Travels my friends!

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