Heading South Through Italy
After Lake Como, we traveled to Florence for two nights. We met the most fascinating couple on the train ride down: both retired, they travel around the world 90 days at a time and return home to Peru for the next 90 until they’re eligible for their next Visa. Sign. Me. Up.
Florence was a bit overwhelming when we arrived – attribute that to the combination of walking through a few piazzas, Sunday, the heat and our overstuffed backpacks. Once we were settled, we escaped the crowds to the other side of the Arno where we found a cute spot, Osteria San Niccolò, for a bite to eat and of course, some wine. We squeezed into a table and immediately picked up on the strong New York accent coming from the couple next to us. They were both retired – a schoolteacher and firefighter with the FDNY traveling the reverse itinerary of ours and visiting their son who was studying abroad.
From there, with their suggestion, we walked up the first of what would be thousands of stairs climbed on the trip to watch the sun set over Florence at Piazza Michelangelo. Get past the crowd, and you get this view. A-mazing.
Our full day in Florence was spent doing Florence things: walking around, visiting the Ponte Vecchio, seeing the ‘fake’ David (note: the Accademia Gallery is closed on Monday so if your trip to Florence is made or broken by seeing the real statue, plan accordingly), checking out the Il Duomo di Firenze, shopping leather, and our favorite part of the day, exploring the roads less traveled. We found our favorite pasta of the entire trip — I’ll add, the most simple dish on the menu, too — at Ristorante Gustavino. I made myself a promise to really SEE Florence and Rome this time around and take notice to all of the smaller things surrounding the big things. It worked.
We left Florence for Rome, where we would spend another two nights on the last of our ‘touring’ part of the trip. We had the pleasure of having the same itinerary as Trump – yay. Lucky enough, we dodged him the ENTIRE time we were there (somehow) and besides the upped-security and the 100s of military and police lining the streets with machine guns, we weren’t really affected. We toured Vatican City the afternoon we arrived and prepped ourselves for the 400-stair climbs that would soon come on the Amalfi Coast with a trip to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica (note: pay the extra two Euro to take the ‘lift’ if you want to see the panoramic view of Vatican City and its surrounding, you’ll thank me later). Regardless of how you get to the top, it’s well worth the trip up. Check out this view.
Rome Day Two: We got up early and were at the Colosseum when it opened (highly recommended because you dodge a bit of the crowds and you avoid the heat). It’s just as amazing seeing it a second time as it was the first. We caught a bit of the heat when we walked over to the Roman Forum, but a beautiful day made for great photos.
Next were Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon. We powered through and somehow managed to get all the sites in by 1:30p. Then came the much-needed glass of wine, which turned into almost five hours and four glasses of wine each, and new German friends at Da Fortunato on a cobblestone ally next to the Pantheon. We ended the day in Trastevere – an area that came recommended on multiple occasions and is described as the ‘Brooklyn of Rome.’ If I visit Rome again, I will definitely spend a majority of my time there, and recommend you doing the same.
The final leg of our trip – and the one I looked forward to most – was the Amalfi Coast. It’s been on my bucket list for a while now and let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint. It’s breathtaking (if you can get past all the stairs/hills). We added a bit of time onto our trip from Rome to Praiano, which also came recommended as you hug the coast and get your first real taste of its beauty before stepping foot onto the land. If you read Como, copy and paste the statement about driving here. It’s the exact same, and quite the spectacle. Its crazy. Kudos to all the bus drivers, (mini) car drivers, pedestrians, bikers and Vespa riders.
We stayed in Praiano, a much smaller town than Amalfi and Positano, and it was exactly what I wanted. We could easily escape any crowd and it had a hometown feel to it. So much so we made friends we would see multiple times a day for the remainder of our stay. The restaurants, gelato, and beaches were great. If you go, try out Kasai. It was some of the best food and best service we had the whole trip. We spent the first day on the local beach, a quick 400 steps (ha) down from the villa, which sat in the Marina del Praia. The water is crystal clear and calm – my kind of beach, and best yet, NO SAND! But you do have to deal with big rocks which I’ll take any day over being covered in sand.
Amalfi Coast Day Two: Early rising for a boat ride to Capri. Hands down my favorite day of the entire trip. Capri is breathtaking. The rocks are white and the water is even bluer than in Praiano and Positano. The grottos are gorgeous and the beaches are unlike anything I’ve been to. We had the afternoon to ourselves on the south side of the island at Marina del Piccola. We splurged and rented two beach chairs in the middle of the rocks, less than a foot from the water. I could’ve stayed forever. The boat ride back to Praiano was just as nice as the ride in, but with twice the waves and a rough sea. Not fun if you don’t have a pair of sea legs.
Heidi unfortunately left Sunday morning, so I ventured down to Furore after dropping her off with the driver. It’s a more remote beach with a pretty unique view. It was the perfect day: sun, warmth, a book and a water bottle filled with some wine.
I decided to spend my final day of vacation in Positano. It definitely was more touristy, which was expected, but I quickly got over that once I got myself settled into a beach chair with this view.
I stayed in and cooked myself some pasta from the little store down the street, and soaked up every bit of relaxation I could before heading back to the real world. Cue this face ?…
I was realizing one of the best parts of the trip was the people we met. Whether they knew of our small towns, were eerily similar to our parents, knew all the little hot spots in our hometowns or where we vacation, or had houses/apartments within walking distance of ours or someone we knew… It was unbelievable the connections we made halfway round the world.
It’s amazing what two weeks away from the real world, some sun, some wine, good company, and good sites can do for you.