Italian Dreams Part II: Tour and the Tuscan Region!

Okay, I’m back for Part II of our Italian adventure!  Today I’ll be reminiscing about some more of our tour (Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri), as well as Florence.

I will be saving Venice and Verona for the third and final installment of our Italian holiday.  Let’s get started in Naples!


After we finished off in Rome, Cameron and I were picked up from our hotel to ultimately make our way to Sorrento.  Now for those who are unfamiliar with the geography of Italy (note: I would be putting my hand up if I was not writing this post), think of Italy as a knee-high boot with a big heel.  Sorrento is about where an ankle-high sock would sit- right on the coast of the left side.  That probably makes no sense at all, but… I tried.  I will include a map of our journey at the end.

On the way to Sorrento though, we stopped through to Naples and Pompeii.  These first photos are from Naples.  It was so extremely cold that day, I had to bust out the ear muffs! I would like to go back to Naples in the warmer months, and have an opportunity to try their famous pizzas.

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This is our stop at Naples.  We weren’t able to stay very long, and so it was more just passing through.  That was okay though, as it was really really reallycold.  Also, it started to rain that kind of freezing- icy rain that burns your face.  You can kind of tell by looking at the grey skies here… Plus, we were all very eager to make it to Pompeii in case a storm set in.  Looking at the photo of me, you can see Mount Vesuvius in the background.  I was surprised that it looked so close- I didn’t really realise that Naples and Pompeii were only about a 30 minute drive apart!

 

After leaving Naples, we continued on the drive through to Pompeii.  For those who do not know much about Pompeii, this is the city that was completely buried in approximately 15 feet of ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.  It remained covered until for over 1500 years, until the city was partially excavated in the mid 1700s.  Due to its amazingly preserved artifacts, Pompeii has been a tourist destination for over 250 years.  It was a must-see on our list!

This is looking down one of the narrow streets in the city of Pompeii.  We were very excited during this tour, and so didn’t take too many pictures.  Some of the things I found most interesting about Pompeii is that only 2/3 of the city has been excavated- quite a lot of it is still yet to be uncovered.  This may for the best though, as the uncovered parts of the city are rapidly deteriorating due to erosion, water damage, light exposure, and even vandalism. 

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Another fascinating thing I learned was that the people of Pompeii had a highly complex water system.  Here is a fountain they used!  Amazing!

photo 5Imagine seeing that volcano erupting.  Gives me the shivers.  Check out the close up shot of Mount Vesuvius below… woah.

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From Pompeii, we left the group bus tour and were taken in a private car (by our own personal driver!!) to our hotel in Sorrento.  The day we arrived there was a parade in the streets to celebrate the Carnevale di Venezia (Venice Carnival) that happens each year in February.  They apparently have celebrations all around the country, not just in Venice!  There were children dressed up in costumes, and everyone was having a wonderful time.  The photo below is looking out over the bridge into the ocean nearby our hotel.  I really wish we’d had more time to spend in Sorrento.  We were able to eat lunch at a ‘fancy’ restaurant on our second day, and it was one of the best meals of my life.  Home-made pasta, amazing Moscato wine, and SO. MUCH. BREAD.  Mmmmm.

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This is the hotel we stayed at in Sorrento- it was beautiful, and the staff were fantastic.


Now for one of my favourite memories of the whole trip… Capri.  I’ll let these photos explain why.

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Seriously.  Look at it.  I mean- look. at. it.  A mountain AND the ocean?  It is my vision of paradise.

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We traveled to Capri and Anacapri by ferry along with our tour guide.  Cameron and I were the only ones on the tour- it was amazing.  We arrived at Anacapri first, which is the smaller of the two adjoining islands.  The highest point of the island is on Anacapri, but Capri is much more popular for tourists.  I believe Anacapri is more ‘residential’.  The picture below was taken when we were on the bus from Anacapri to Capri.  The hotels in Anacapri are much more affordable, and the buses run every 15 minutes to Capri (which is only 3 km away).  Tickets cost about 1.80 Euros.  After seeing hotel prices for Capri, I would definitely suggest staying overnight in Anacapri!

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One thing I would definitely recommend doing in Capri is trying the limoncello!  The whole Southern region of Italy (like Capri/ Sorrento) is famous for their citrus fruits, and the products they make using them.  Limoncello is a lemon liqueur that is deceptively strong!  Cameron drank tons of it.  We also bought limoncello syrup filled chocolates… YUM.  The espressos in Capri were really good too.  They came with a glass of sparkling water as well as a little biscuit- all for about 1.30 Euros.

Of all the places we went in Italy, Capri is the place I would be most eager to visit again.  But in the summertime.  Because we were there in the winter a lot of the designer boutiques were closed for off- season.  I would love to see it in peak season!


After we left Capri, we were in Sorrento for another night, and then returned to Rome.  At this point, Cameron had already been battling a pretty bad cold for a couple of days (I had been feeling great!).  Then… *dun dun dunnnnn*, I started to get a bit sniffly.

ON TO FLORENCE!

Florence was the city I had looked forward to most.  Everyone always talks about the Tuscan region and how amazing Florence in particular is.  They are not wrong.

It is amazing.

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This is the amazing cathedral in Florence- the Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo.  It is a magnificent structure that just absolutely captivates you.  I could hardly stop staring.  It is the 4th largest cathedral in the world…!  Just gorgeous.  (I wonder how many more adjectives I could put in this blurb..?)

So after a horrendous train trip from Rome to Florence (horrendous because I was a snotty mess), we arrived at our hotel.  We were upgraded to a superior room (score!), and I couldn’t do anything but collapse onto the bed and sleep.  At this stage I am pretty sure I had the flu.  I was so exhausted and gross, and couldn’t move.  After sleeping the whole first day, and raiding the hotel mini bar fridge, our next day in Florence was Valentine’s Day.  Unfortunately I was a bit too snotty and disgusting to attempt to get dressed up to go out.  It was about our third day in Florence that we were both feeling well enough to venture out and see some sights.  After strolling through a few somewhat scary backstreets, we made it to the main part of Florence.  The city was bustling with lots of tourists, but there was a really great atmosphere about the whole place.  We decided we should go visit the Accademia Gallery museum (where the infamous Statue of David is located), as well as the Uffizi Gallery (which holds an extensive collection of Florentine and Renaissance artwork).  To be quite honest, I definitely enjoyed the artwork at the Uffizi more than the Accademia Gallery.  The only thing of interest to me at the latter was the Statue of David- which, by the way, is gigantic.  There are lots of little David trinkets and souvenirs to buy, but we weren’t really into that.  The Uffizi had some amazing works by Botticelli, da Vinci, and Rembrandt.  If you are into art, you should most definitely visit the Uffizi.

We had some awesome gelato, and browsed the designer shops.  We checked out the da Vinci museum, which was cool but probably not worth the money we paid.  You can go inside the Duomo for free and look around.  That night, we walked around until we found a tiny family-owned restaurant, and had the BEST cannelloni ever.

On our last day in Florence, I had booked us a ‘Tuscany Tour’ through http://www.viator.com.  IT WAS FABULOUS.  It was around $100 AU Dollars each, and included an English speaking tour guide that took us on a bus to Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa.

72657_10200149911004615_1452345898_nThis is in Siena- in the main square called the Piazza del Campo.  This is where each year they hold the Palio- a super famous horse race.  There was hardly anyone in the Piazza when we were there, but during the Palio, you can barely move it is so full.  The Piazza del Campo is regarded as one of the most beautiful public areas in the world.  The grey area you can see in the photo above was the most amazing coffee shop.  The photo below shows some of the old buildings in the area.  Stunning.

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This is the cathedral in the main part of Siena.  It was built during the time of the ‘Black Plague’.  The tour guide told us that the church was actually meant to be much larger, but when they were extending it, all the workers died from the plague, so it was never completed.  I thought the inside of the cathedral was the best part.  As you can see in the picture below, the black and white stripes are actually alternating types of marble.. stunning.

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After Siena, we headed on to the amazing medieval town of San Gimignano.  There, we roamed the cobblestone streets, browsed the shops, got a bit lost, and then relaxed while taking in the views.  We of course left enough time to enjoy an incredible espresso.

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Above is me in San Gimignano, by an old well.  Below are some of the medieval stone buildings around the town.  It really was a tiny little town that we both just fell in love with.

26317_10200149914844711_238523587_nNext stop on the tour was lunch at an organic farm/ vineyard in the Tuscan countryside.  As a large group, we were first shown this magnificent view:

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We were then seated and given endless amounts of locally produced wine (mainly Chianti- which Cameron loves), as well as a beautiful lunch of homemade pasta.  There was creamy goat cheese, fresh bread, and even dessert.  We all left the farm feeling a little tipsy.  Our final stop of the day was PISA!

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So I have a confession to make.  We did not take a ‘pretending to hold up the leaning tower’ photo.  At the time, I had no desire to be that cliché, but now I’m kind of wishing we’d taken one. hahah- isn’t that always the way?  Oh well- check out this awesome picture of the tower above!  Did you know that the leaning tower of Pisa is made entirely out of marble?? I seriously thought it would be like, sandstone or something.  I mean, I don’t know a lot about building materials, and I’m also not an expert when it comes to architecture, but I was seriously impressed by the marble.  It was so smooth to the touch, and so beautifully carved.  We were fortunate enough to be able to purchase tickets to climb the tower in advance.  As we climbed, the sun was setting on a seriously perfect Italian dreaming day.

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Also, in case anyone was wondering, the Leaning Tower is not the only thing to see in Pisa.  There are a number of really cute little shops, and a number of other gorgeous buildings.  I think the main one in this picture is some kind of government house, and there is a cathedral in the back of the photo.  You could see the dome of the cathedral in the sunset picture from the top of the tower.  Although it was tiny, Pisa was a breath taking town with many beautifully designed buildings.

Our Tuscany tour came to an end with a mini train ride around Pisa, and then a bus back to Florence.  And so concludes Part II of our Italian Dreaming holiday!

I will be finishing the rest of our holiday in a final installment- Part III- with Venice and Verona!
Til then, xo

 

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