Venezia

Let me first start off by saying that these pictures do not do Venice justice. This city is overly beautiful and jaw droppingly amazing.

Gorgeous

One thing I remember most about this trip is when we got off the train and left the building. As we walked out, I stopped and literally gasped at the beautiful scenery. There’s no place like Venice. I’m not an avid traveller, but I’ve been to some pretty neat places. Venice, by far, is one that takes my breath away. Venice consists of 118 small islands connected by bridges and canals. It’s a city that relies on water transportation; no trucks and no cars. That alone is impressive.

Pretty

We got into our apartment late in the evening. We found dinner and saw the Rialto Bridge at night. Ended the night early to wake up for a full day of sight-seeing.

Rialto Bridge

For our first full day, we took some pictures at Piazza San Marco. This is where the famous Church of St. Mark and the clock tower can be found. Nearby also houses the Palazzo Ducale, also known as Doge’s Palace, where the supreme authority of Venice resided.

Church of St. Mark

Palazzo Ducale

We wandered over Ponte dell’Accademia to the Basilica de Santa Maria della Salute to sit on the steps and just gaze. This was our rest stop.

Lock bridge

Ponte dell'Accademia
^^^ Family selfie again!

Basilica de Santa Marina della Salute
I love this candid shot of the gang!

Venice
We look like a painting, right?

After a new change of clothes, we went on a gondola ride! While planning for this trip, people told us to skip the gondola because it’s expensive. But I totally think it’s worth it to ride a gondola. When you tell people that you went to Venice, you already know the first question that will be asked, “Did you ride a gondola?” Fortunately for me, my answer is yes! For 60 euro, the boat ride is about 30 minutes for up to 6 people. Since we had the maximum amount of riders, it was definitely worth it for us!

Gondola

Bridge

Gondola

Venice is an expensive place to eat. To save money, we decided to cook at home. Sadly, the fish market is closed on Mondays. We then went to to the local grocery store to pick something up. Whole chickens were on sale, so we picked up two for under 10 euros and took them home to make rotisserie chicken (my recipe here). Ohhh yeahhh! For our first course, I made a creamy ravioli with bacon (refrigerated pasta is even amazing!). Then we had roasted chicken, cauliflower, and risotto for our main course. All this to feed 6 for under 30 euros. We did good!

Homemade

The next morning we were leaving for Barcelona in the afternoon, which meant we had a bit of time in the morning. We visited Venice’s famous fish market. So much to look at! If only we had another night to make a seafood meal. Guess that will have to wait for my next visit!

Seafood market

Tip: Trip guides mention that a vaporetto boat (water bus) is the best and cheapest way to get around. I think walking is the most ideal way to really see the city and alley ways. It’s really easy to get lost because there are few main sidewalks so bring a map! Google maps actually failed us here because buildings are so tall and old so reception is limited. We went old school way!

Just a funny pic. MG and I slept on the pull out couch in the living room. Since there wasn’t a door, we made one out of pillows. Hey, it worked!

Makeshift door

I really enjoyed Venice and would recommend this city as a must-visit in your travel bucket list. Have you been to Venice before and what was your favorite part about the city? Were you as amazed as me? If you haven’t been before, would you go and why?

Happy Monday! Stay tuned for Barcelona and Dublin in one post!
Jay
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Just a reminder, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll get some extra pics that are not on the blog.

  

Firenze

Our next stop, Florence!

I love this little city. It was one of my favorite cities that we travelled to because of the relaxing environment. After so much sight-seeing in Rome, it was nice to take things slow. A huge plus, this city is small enough that you can walk to everything. It made this portion of the trip really easy to plan. The highlight of this trip? Easy, gelato! Keep reading to find out more.

We arrived late in the afternoon and settled into our apartment. This was the only apartment where we had 1.5 bathrooms! Can you believe we had 1 bathroom for 6 people in all the other cities? It’s do-able, though there is a lot of holding in things and screaming at another person to get out. I currently live in a townhouse with 3 full baths, can you blame me?!?

We walked around the city and looked for a restaurant called Osteria Santo Spirito, recommended by our apartment host. BEST PASTA EVAR! By the way, any place you eat at in Italy, they pretty much hate tourists. Expect longgg dinners because they make you wait for a table and you’re ignored by your waiter most times. The waitress told me there was no table, and when I asked again, she told me I could reserve a table for 2 hours later. I think she expected me to leave but I said ok. During the wait, we discovered the best gelato at La Carraia! We ate dessert before dinner! 

La Carraia

Gelato

When we were brought to our table 2 hours later, we were seated in an empty upstairs eating area that could hold at least 20 people. Ugh. The pasta made up for it though! The highlight? Truffled gnocchi. Yummm!

Pasta

The next morning, MG and I got up early to check out All’Antico Vinaio, a well-known place for sandwiches (#1 on TripAdvisor). The sandwich master sings songs while putting together his recommendations of things that are fresh day-of. Really great place for yummy sandwiches!

All'Antico Vinaio

We set out to Pisa via train. I wasn’t excited to take an hour train ride outside of Florence, but I’m glad this decision was made. The Leaning Tower of Pisa really exceeded my expectations! Beautiful structure, and the surrounding area was so nice to lay out in the sun and enjoy some sammiches.

Pisa Gif

Selfie
^^^ There’s that family selfie again!

Pisa cake
No regrets… we had to do the cheesy Pisa shots. My Pisa cakeeeee!!!!

Pisa
Just lounging on the lawn ^^^

We traveled to Lucca afterwards. It’s a small Tuscan city with beautiful landscapes. Cute place to bike around (we regretted not doing this as we left the city)!

Le mura di Lucca
^^^ The famous Le mura di Lucca

Lucca

Lucca
Every setting is picture perfect!

Once we got back to Florence, we went to La Prosciutteria for meat and cheese (#2 on TripAdvisor). Then we walked around Vecchio Bridge for a nighttime view.

La Prosciutteria

Vecchio Bridge Night

Early to bed, early to rise… for the Statue of David! Get to the Accademia Gallery early so that the line isn’t as long. The museum allows a set number of visitors so only a few groups go in at a time. This museum is totally worth it. I was awestruck at the beauty of David. Speechless. I’m not a museum person; I’m the girl that reenacts all the statues, but wow David is a whole different form of artwork. The details of this piece is spectacular!

Statue of David

We also walked to the Florence cathedral, also known as the Duomo. This is one of Italy’s largest cathedrals and holds the world’s largest dome. We didn’t take the tour, but we did marvel at  the exterior of this church. Beautiful.

Duomo

We also walked the Vecchio Bridge one more time to get a day view and see the shops on the bridge. Jewelry, trinkets, and leather goods galore here! We went to a nearby local market and picked up some steaks and potatoes for dinner. How American are we? Second portion of the trip and we already needed our meat and potatoes. I don’t know what it is about Europe, but their groceries are all so flavorful. Steaks have a meaty taste. Oranges are sweet. Eggs are fresh. What’s going on here and how come we don’t have foods on par?

Vecchio bridge
^^^ Another reoccurring theme during this trip – my crazy hair. I can’t tame it, and I’ve given up!

Steaks

Of course, we went back out for gelato at night. This time we went to Vivoli. During our three day stay in Florence, we ate gelato 5 times. 4 times at the same shop, at La Carraia. By far the best gelato of my life!

Vivoli

Florence, you beautiful city, you. I’ll probably be back again one day!

Have you been to Florence before? If so, what were your favorite things to do? If not, do you think you’ll go and what draws you there?

Next post… Venice. Oh my!
Jay
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BTW follow me on Instagram if you want some additional pictures of my trip!

  

Roma, Italia

I’m back from summer vacay! To say the trip was fun is an understatement! So many great memories and laughs! I’m coming home with ~2,500 pictures!

I didn’t expect much from this trip because Europe has always been one of those vacations that consists of a lot of walking, sight-seeing, and not too much food because it’s so expensive. I’m a beach girl. Yes to the walking and sight-seeing, but now that I make money, we ate ourselves silly! Next go around, I want to bring a pedometer to measure walking distance. I’m estimating 3-5 miles a day, which I hope walked off all the bread, butter, and pasta we ate.

For the next two weeks, I will be posting about my Eurotrip. Today I’ll feature Rome. Following that will be Florence, Venice, Barcelona, Dublin, Paris, and London. I’ll show the sights we visited, and some tips that helped get us through the trip. The activities we did is not a definitive list. These are the things we had time for, but each city has so much more to offer. Keep in mind we had 2-3 days in each city, which isn’t enough time to explore everything!

One big tip: Check out Airbnb and VRBO to book apartments for Europe. I suggest apartments because it’s more cost efficient and convenient. We cooked breakfast to start the days and cooked dinners in every city so that we could get a feel for the local groceries/markets and taste the food. That’s a big saver in money, especially in our case for 6 people. We all brought small suitcases that could be used for carry-ons so a laundry machine was to our advantage.

So Roma! We arrived in Rome on 5/19 in the evening. We basically checked into our apartment and then found a place to dinner. We were so amazed at all the street views. It’s your typical movie set with colored buildings, open window panels/panes, and cobblestone streets. Everything looked like a poster!

The next day was a big one. We walked to the Colosseum first thing in the morning. This thing is massive! It’s the largest amphitheatre in the world and was built in 80 AD. The Colosseum ticket also gets you into the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as well.

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum^^^ family selfie! you’ll see this throughout our trip! 

Palatine Hil

Forum

Then we headed over to the Pantheon. This building had me awestruck. It was built in 126 AD. and is one of the best preserved buildings in from Ancient Rome. Just beautiful. The center is an open dome with streams of sunlight lighting up the interior. To think that this was built without technology and all by hand… just utterly amazing.

Pantheon

Pantheon

Pantheon

My mom’s favorite sight was the Trevi Fountain. It’s the largest fountain in Rome and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Tradition has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain, right hand over left shoulder with your back against the fountain, it will ensure a return trip back to Rome; second coin for romance, third coin for marriage. Believe what you want!

Trevi

Trevi Fountain

Gelato

More importantly, we were able to rest our feet and eat gelato at the fountain!

Our last stop was the Spanish steps. This is the widest set of steps in Europe and a great place to sit and just people watch.

Spanish Steps

Parents^^^ My mama and babi. This pic melts my heart 

After the first day, I showered, laid my head down onto the pillow, and immediately fell asleep. No dreams. Just zzz’s.

Our last day in Rome, we were blessed by Papa Francesco! We had previously reserved papal audience tickets to see the Pope. Pretty funny watching people throw their kids at the pope for a kiss! We also toured the Vatican museum and saw the Sistine Chapel, which houses the famous Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, among other Renaissance painters. Wow!

Vatican CityMasses of people! No pun intended… Tehehe

Pope Gif
“Hai! I bless you and you and you!”

Sistine ChapelNo pics allowed but I snuck one in. I do what I want!

For dinner we bought groceries at Mercato Trionfale – entrees included cioppino, steak, and pan-fried mackerel. Dinner for under 50 euros for a party of 6. Perfecto!

Rome meal

At night we went out for dessert and came across Piazza Navona. There are many street vendors that sell a hodge podge of stuff. We ended up purchasing these plastic helicopter toys that can fly up to over 10 stories high. We played with them until late into the night. Sometimes I think we’re five, and that’s okay in my book!

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Rome was the highlight of the trip if you’re measuring the city according to sight-seeing. There’s so much history!

Another useful tip: Circle all the sight-seeing spots you want to visit on a map (or for you techie people, pin each spot on Google Maps). This helps to plan out the day and figure out which sites to visit sequentially according to proximity. It’s how we were able to go to 6 sites on one day!

Have you been to Rome? If so, what did you do? Which are your favorite tourist activities? If you haven’t been, what’s the most intriguing?

Stay tuned for my Florence post,
Jay
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Typically I post by midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. As you can see, I’m a bit late with this post. Due to my work schedule, I’ll be posting when I get a chance. I will continue to do my best to stay on schedule! Thanks for following along.