Our next destination on the trip was to Italy for two weeks. Rome was the first stop. Here the warm weather continued and we wondered how anyone could deal with traveling there in the middle of summer. We visited all the usual sights with my highlights being the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum. Rome really has an incredible amount of history.
We also made a day trip to Pompeii and Erclano/Herculaneum. This was an incredible experience! So amazing that these cities are not too far from what we have today in terms of modern luxuries like running water. It was very worthwhile going to both ruins as Erclano is much smaller and better preserved and shows you what Pompeii could look like when ‘complete’. Only 2/3rds of the town of Pompeii has been excavated due to the large size of the place and the issues in keeping that well protected from an archeological perspective.
After Rome we headed to Florence to pick up the rental car. We had a week booked in a house in Tuscany for a bit of relaxation. We still made trips to Pisa (to see the leaning tower), the seaside, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano (‘Medieval Manhattan’) and the town near us, Vinci (where Leonardo da Vinci was born). While I throughly enjoyed the whole week, Florence was definitely a highlight. I really enjoyed wandering the city and looking at all the amazing sights.
Unfortunately our luck with the weather had caught up with us and we had a rainy few days and it wasn’t as hot as it had been so only mum was game enough to go for a dip in the pool.
Another side trip we made from Tuscany was to the Cinque Terre. This is a beautiful section of the Italian Riviera with five fishing towns spread along the rugged coastline. There are numerous walking trails between the towns and train stations connecting them. We walked some (well, climbed a huge hill) for some great views and took the train for other parts. We visited four of the towns during the day, with our mutual favourite being Vernazza, absolutely stunning! Some fresh seafood and a beer were very welcome in the last town.
It was my turn to drive in Florence, I dropped the car back to the rental office and we took the train to Venice. What an amazing place! We got a pass for the vaporetto (small ferries for public transport) and made the most of this taking trips all around the Island, down the Grand Canal and to the island of Murano. It was great wandering the back streets (or canals) and losing the tourists for a more authentic view of what living there is like for the locals. We only had one night there and that was plenty. I was starting to get a case of ‘Island fever’.
Our last stop in Italy was Milan. We decided to get the train from here to Switzerland so we had a day visiting the city. Milan may split people as whether they like it or not but I really loved it. It’s a much more sleek city than Rome and I really liked the cosmopolitan feel. This felt like a city where people actually lived and went about their lives and in some places we struggled with being understood or finding an English speaker. The cathedral is amazing and reminded me of the York Minster. We also enjoyed walking along the Galleria off the main square and visiting the theatre, very lavish. Outside two models were staring in a commercial with a fancy Porsche and another model was having photos taken of her in a winter coat on a balcony. We could definitely tell this is the fashion capital of Italy.
I was quite sad to leave Italy as we sped off on the train to Switzerland, but some great experiences were coming for me in Switzerland. I’ll write about those next time.