If I had to use two words to describe my recent trip to Italy, they would be WOW and AMAZING! The history and architecture throughout the country are absolutely breathtaking and I loved how in every city I visited the whole city was filled with charm and history. Not just a building here or there, but the whole city. Below are some details on each city we visited.
Once we landed in Rome we had to go through the airport and then up to the train station. I was a little worried about this portion of the trip because I’ve heard the train system can be a little overwhelming. We didn’t have any problem finding the station or our train. Although I was tired from our flight, the scenery from Rome to Florence was beautiful. Once we got to Florence, we had a private driver pick us up at the train station and take us to our hotel in Siena, the Grand Hotel Continental. I loved this hotel! The view from our room overlooked the town and was wonderful. Service, food, wine, and location were all perfect!
The next day we had a private driver for the day. I would recommend this to all of my clients. You can relax and enjoy the scenery as you travel from point to point. The views of the countryside were like something out of a magazine. The sun was shining and all you could see for miles was rolling hills filled with vineyards and olive orchards. Plus, the drivers know all the neat off-the-beaten-path spots to stop for lunch, or wine, or shopping, or more wine.
We went to San Gimignano first. We saw some of the 14 towers that were built there. It was a lovely town with great views, shopping, wine, Gelato, more shopping and more wine. Our driver Simone then took us to lunch at a vineyard. We toured the grounds and winery after meeting the excited owner. He proudly told us the history of his farm and how this was his passion. We were able to taste different wines and olive oils and his wife made us lunch. She made us lasagna and it was the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted, it practically melted in my mouth. After lunch, our driver took us to a very small hillside town off the beaten path. We visited a winery and heard all about its history before and after the war. We also watched them make olive oil which was a neat process to see. The olive oil there tastes so much better than what we have here.
Next, we were off to Rome from Siena by train. We took a little local train from Siena to Florence, then transferred to Florence to go back to Rome. We didn’t have any issues finding our train. We did business class seating on the trains which were very roomy and comfortable. When we arrived in Rome, we had another private driver pick us up and take us to the Colosseum. I loved having this service. They drive crazy in Rome. It was worth every penny to not have to worry about how to get from point A to B and to know that once we were done with our tour, we just went to our meeting point and off we went.
The Colosseum was really mind-blowing. Once you are there and you see it in person you can’t help but step back and think WOW! We did a skip the line tour which saved hours of waiting. Our tour included the underground which is extraordinary and we got to see the elevators they used to lift animals and other things up into the Colosseum. We learned that they think that the Romans found a way to flood the Colosseum so they could have battles with ships.
The next day we did a half day tour of the Vatican. Again, a skip the line pass is a must. Early tours like what I did are less crowded than the afternoon tour. As we went on this tour the artwork and interior of the buildings just got better and better. We were able to visit the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peters Basilica. Words can not describe the beauty of each. Then after we were done there, we went to visit the famous Spanish Steps and stunning Trevi Fountain. Of course, we had to take time at the fountain to throw in a coin or 3.
Next, we were off to Florence by way of our sister city Perugia. This city was beautiful. We met Marta Cucchia who is a fourth-generation weaver. She may be one of the last people who weave with the machine she has. It was incredible to watch how she does this with an 18-century loom. The patterns she makes are astonishing.
My trips into Tuscany were filled with astonishing views of hillsides that were filled with vineyards and olive orchards. Some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting. On our way to dinner at a private villa in Tuscany, we stopped at the Piazzale Michelangelo. It's hard to put how fabulous the views of Florence were here. I don’t think words can describe it justly. We could see all of downtown Florence. Once we arrived at the Villa we heard about its history all while sitting on top of a hillside overlooking miles of vineyards at dusk. The ambiance was spectacular. The next day we toured downtown Florence. We saw the Duomo, Piazza Della Signoria, and shopped at the famous bridge, the Ponte Vecchio. Florence was a very charming city. The houses right outside the city center are very historical and gorgeous.
After two nights in Florence, we headed out to Venice with a stop in Bologna on the way. I enjoyed the town of Bologna. We had a city tour which included Quadrilatero and Piazza Maggiore. We then arrived in Venice at 4:00 pm. Our hotel, The Continental Venice, was walking distance from the train station and located directly on the canal. It was a very beautiful hotel located within steps of fabulous shopping with lots of restaurants to choose from as well. As we approached our hotel by water taxi my eyes were could hardly take in all the beautiful buildings on the canal. Everything looked like something you would see in a National Geographic magazine as the water taxis traveled up and down the canals, with historic buildings lining each side of the canal. Due to unexpected large amounts of rain in Venice when we arrived, however, we were unable to take the famed gondola rides, or see St Mark’s Square. The water didn’t dampen our Venice experience though and we had a fabulous rest of our trip. It’s truly an astonishing and romantic city.
I honestly enjoyed every minute of this whirlwind Italian adventure. We were in Italy for 8 nights where we stayed in 4 fabulous cities for 2 nights each. All of the cities we stayed in and visited along the way were unique, each filled with amazing stories, stunning beauty, and immense history. I can’t wait to go back for more stunning scenery, wine, and the gondola ride I missed!