Sunday, August 30, 2015

Italy 5 - Venice

... might have been my favorite place. We were there for less than 24 hours, and only hung out in the uppermost part, the Jewish ghetto. Did not even take a gondola ride or get to St. Mark's. But I still loved it! I discovered the Campari spritz, with a green olive in it! Might be the best drink in the world.

We went on a great "pub crawl" with an exuberant host named Alessandro. We walked to three bars, enjoyed wine, appetizers, Prosecco and chatting with other tourists on the crawl. It was a great experience, for such a short time there.

This is the market right outside our hotel room

Italy 4 - Florence

Random ceiling shots from the Uffizi

I liked it, well enough. Lots of handbags, leather goods, art, and people! I could see getting your city fix in this town, while it's still small enough to walk around. That is appealing. I can't see needing to go to Rome and Florence though, on the same vacation unless you have lots of time to do it, and aren't traveling in the hot hot heat and crowded streets of summer. That said, it is a wonderful place, with many restaurants, cafes, galleries, etc. And gorgeous bridges! We stayed on the 4th floor of a residential building, in a less touristy neighborhood. It was close enough to walk to and from the main train station in town, and equally close to the galleries and museums we wanted to go to. The streets are seriously narrow though, so lugging a rolling suitcase was a challenge when cars wanted to pass.
We saw the David, which was the main reason I wanted to go to Florence. And also visited the Uffizi Gallery which was great.
Probably our favorite thing was a cafe/plant shop/gift store/restaurant/banquet space -- yes, all one thing -- we went to several times. The first day we were there we talked to the owner who was young-ish and seemed pretty cool. Hence, we returned again and again.
Obika Bar

There was a spectacular fireworks show one night because of some sports game finale thing in town.
Not quite soccer, but something ...
Not a good photo, but one of the better fireworks shows I've ever seen

Our favorite cafe

Italy 3 - Assisi and Perugia

These little towns were a short drive from our home base in Agello. They were quite close actually, though sometimes we went through several roundabouts before realizing we had veered off course. All part of the adventure.
I actually remembered Saint Francis of Assisi from Catholic School, so figured I should check out his town. It was great. Small windy roads, giant beautiful Basilica, lots of excellent shoe stores, ice cream shops, bakeries, and many owl figurines. I still haven't figured out why I kept seeing owl merch everywhere, even in other cities. And it is probably the one thing I regret not buying! Why do I need owl merch? I have no idea. Note to self: must start owl piggy bank now for next trip.
old, narrow, and charming with lots of geranium pots lining walls

Flora, our new pal

Owls, owls and more owls

notice the same flower pots on the arch down this little street
so many giant macarons- these were larger than a softball.
I am still kicking myself for not coming home with a smattering
of these miniature canolis. so many different flavors!
And Perugia. This was a much larger town whose streets befuddled our GPS. We wound around and around on the outskirts of town, and finally squeezed into what I think was a legitimate parking spot. We then hoofed it uphill to the main square with a cathedral and giant fountain in front. Another town in which I need return and spend more time. It is the chocolate capital after all. Enough said.
Lots of long winding stairways. And see the building in the center- the pinkish one?
This color was all over Italy. It's so beautiful... in Italy.

So many details when you look up

Italy 2 - Agello

Another one of my favorite places was Agello, a very small town in the hills in Umbria. My aunt and uncle have a summer home there, and the way it was described, I knew I had to see if for myself. I am always up for a country home and an adventure. The house and town were charming, streets tiny and winding, views spectacular, with close proximity to Lake Trasimeno.
We took a couple of trips from there, to Perugia and Assisi. Driving around these parts was exciting to say the least, but doable in a small car. Parking on the other hand... I would love to return with more time to meander and really relax in these little towns.
Our home base 

the stairs at night
Thank goodness these little towns are labeled

Italy 1 - Rome

For a couple of months, it felt like every free minute I had, I was online looking up museum tours, train tickets, apartment rentals for our trip to Italy this past June. We were there for 9 days, stayed in 4 cities, visited family, made new friends, discovered new cocktails, saw lots of sunflower fields, ate, drank, remained unscathed by other Italian motorists, and honestly came to appreciate many things in our American lives back home.
It was fun, but like I've said before, I needed a vacation after this vacation. There is so much to see and do, so many gelato places to try! Ancient buildings to admire, learn about, famous art to see, neighborhoods to visit, wine to drink, etc. I find it impossible to sit still when there's so much possibility around me!
We stayed in Rome, Umbria, Florence and Venice; and also visited Assisi and Perugia. I would return to all - but probably narrow that list down to maybe two towns, and stay longer in each. That way relaxing could happen. And I love getting to know a place by just walking around without any specific time frame or agenda.
Here are some photos....
Uncle Pino, with plant in hand

The above are photos of Trastevere, the oldest part of Rome, and my Uncle's favorite part. One afternoon he took us around. Being a passenger in his car is an experience unto itself. I really liked what he showed us, but our exploration on foot was cut short due to torrential rain and pending dinner reservations. I would like to beeline to this part of town on the next trip, for art, building viewing and lots of cute cafes and bars.
One of the best tours we did was a tour of the Colosseum, including the newly opened underground. It was fantastic.
Details from the underground

the Colosseum

Views and surrounding the Colosseum
Another Gallery we went to in Rome was the Galleria Borghese, which was conveniently located a short walk from my Aunt and Uncle's house. Luckily we were able to escape the downpour during our 2 hour self guided tour. Of course there were many beautiful pieces of art, many, many sculptures. But what I really found intriguing were the mosaics. The ones I show were in the floor.