We met our guide outside the Colosseum to begin our walking tour of ancient Rome bright and early. The area was already buzzing with tourists and a sweet bride and groom taking a few wedding photos.
Walking tours are one of my favorite ways to explore and I would absolutely suggest a guide in a place as history-rich as Rome. There are, of course, always self-guided audio tour options, but judging by the couple below, they don’t seem overly engaging.
The Colosseum itself was nothing short of impressive and our guide was very knowledgeable. She refreshed most of what I’d forgotten since my high school world history class.
After the Colosseum it was on to the Arch of Constantine. We got much closer and our guide explained all the details of the heavily decorated arch that we had missed the night before.
Up next was Palatine Hill, the center-most hill of the ‘Seven Hills of Rome’ that overlooks the Roman Forum.
We took an early train to Rome and arrived in time for lunch. After checking into our hotel (which happened to be right behind the Trevvi Fountain), we stopped for a quick bite at Osteria Allegro Pachino, just at the edge of the fountain.
We loaded up on reasonably priced and tasty pizza and pasta with cheese and pepper before starting off on a little self guided sightseeing.
Our first stop was obviously the Trevi Fountain. Although lovely, it was quite crowded (and apparently always is during the day) so we snapped a few photos, tossed in a few coins over our backs for good luck and kept moving.
We meandered by countless pretty courtyards and interesting shops, including this one that sold Pinnochio dolls in every size imaginable, as we made our way to Piazza Venezia.
The Piazza is in the center of Rome and intersects several major roads.It reminded me of visiting the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Our next stop was the Pantheon. Again, very crowded, but spectacular to behold.
The Pantheon was one of the many buildings in Rome that gave me a true appreciation of the amazing architecture. It seems impossible that something that grand and refined could be built so long ago, let alone still be standing after all this time.
After our delightful day trip to Pisa, Haley and I were ready for another day in Florence. We decided to switch it up a bit and signed up for a bicycle tour! We met early and got fitted for our bikes and helmets and met our amazingly knowledgeable guide, Philip.
After some bike safety basics, we spent the morning riding around Florence, stopping at various monuments and historical sights for brief explanations and interesting tidbits from Philip. Our group consisted of about six people so it was not difficult to hear or stay together.
As the morning wore on, we made our way out of the city and up the hill to the Piazzale Michelangelo.
The Piazzale sits on a large hill and offers the most stunning panoramic views of Florence and is well worth the walk or ride, especially at dawn or sunset!
We took in the views, took lots of pictures and then walked even further up hill to the Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte, a beautiful church, considered to be the most scenic in all of Florence.
We continued our trek towards through the Tuscan countryside to Galileo’s house! This was his last residence before his death.
We stopped for a family style lunch at a quaint restaurant close by that was just opening for the day. The restaurant had beautiful views and a sweet courtyard garden out back.
After lunch we hopped back on our bikes and made our way to Villa Le Piazzole, a gorgeous historical Renaissance Villa that has been turned into a bed and breakfast.
We had a free day in Florence before our next big tour so we decided a day trip was in order. One of the proprietors of our hostel suggested Pisa or Lucca, which he described as a walled city with a greenway/garden on top of the walls. Lucca sounded right up my alley, (You can rent bicycles and ride on top of the walls!) but we decided we simply could not leave Italy without seeing Pisa. When I make my way back to Italy (someday!) Lucca will definitely be a must do!
We took the train from Florence to Pisa and arrived around lunchtime.
We stopped right outside the station for a quick kebab (I would call it a Gyro but in Italy, it’s a kebab) to get a break from all the pizza/pasta we had been consuming and then made our way towards the tower.
Pisa was rather small and at first glance seemed deserted. I would soon see that ALL the people were on the other side of town, at the base of it’s most famous piece of architecture of course.
The leaning tower started to peak above the buildings as we got closer, which made the approach very exciting.