My husband and I just had the amazing opportunity to celebrate our 2 year wedding anniversary in what I believe to be one of the most beautiful and diverse places in the world...Italy. Due to our work schedules and Rob's limited time off, we had to squeeze as much as possible into 8 adventure filled days. In that time we saw fast paced Milan, walked the streets of Florence, Siena and a quaint little town in the Tuscany region called San Gimignano, explored the grandiose ruins of Rome, toured the awe-inspiring Vatican City, relaxed on a Gondola Ride through the canals of Venice, took in the history in Verona, and experienced the architecture of Pisa.
We flew into Milan and immediately picked up our rental car and drove to Tuscany. No words can truly describe the beauty of the Tuscany region. The rolling hills, the green valleys, the infinite vineyards...It was exactly how I pictured it, but even more beautiful that I could ever imagine. Once we arrived at our hotel, appropriately proclaimed as the "Charm of Tuscany", we decided to explore the area. So we hopped in our car and drove around until we found a small village on top of a hillside with a castle overlooking the whole valley. It was incredible and we were the only people around.
The next day wasn't as leisurely as we had to see Siena, Florence, Pisa and San Gimignano all in one day. So we woke up early and headed straight to Florence to the Accademia Gallery where Michelangelo's "David" is on display. Though it is definitely a must see due to it's history and fame, I did not expect to be as awe-struck as I was with a statue. David stands in the middle of the grand hallway and really is a sight to be seen. The details and accuracy are incredible and it really did stand apart from all the other abundant statues you see throughout Italy. We were not allowed to take photos in the Gallery, but being the photographer I am, I could not resist, I had to steal at least one.
After the museum we walked around a bit and took in the city. Here are a few more photos from Florence.
After Florence we drove to Pisa to see the leaning tower. Another site that is so much cooler in person. The tower really is leaning and according to history, was built in 3 different stages, all decades apart from each other. The reason for the delay in construction is still unknown.
From Pisa we went to Siena and walked around the cobble stone streets and narrow alleys. It too is a beautiful city and completely diverse from the others.
Next on the agenda was San Giminagno, a small town we were told not to leave Italy without seeing, and it was definitely worth it. It's known for it's abundance in clock and bell towers. Most bell towers in Italy were destroyed in WWII, but San G was fortunate enough to have been far enough away from the War's wrath, that most of it's original bell towers are still standing today. San Gimignano is a very quiet city in the countryside and offered a lot of culture.
On our third day there we headed to Rome. I was and still am blown away at the endless beauty of this country. Everywhere we went we came across one beautiful sight after another. Lush mountain sides, rolling hills covered in foliage more green that you can imagine and trees and crops of every assortment. My favorite however, was the giant fields of wildflowers that would sporadically appear along the sides of the freeway and roads. It was breathtaking, unlike anything I've seen and I could not put my camera down.
Once in Rome the first stop on our agenda was of course, the Vatican. I have been to England, Scotland and everywhere in between and never have I seen such an ornate, detailed and extreme estate. The Vatican was not only grandiose, but gaudy, articulate and excessive. I don't mean that in a bad way, but it's the only way I can think to appropriately describe such a magnificent building. Every ceiling, wall and floor was decorated in excessive art, details, color and beauty. Not only that but it is home to some of the oldest artifacts in the world. We saw things that dated back to before Christ. It truly was a spectacle.
However, no matter how beautiful or detailed the halls, rooms and courtyards were, the single most amazing thing inside the Vatican remains to be the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Again, photos were prohibited inside the Chapel, but as I'm sure you can guess, I snuck one or two. Who can go to the Sistine Chapel and NOT take a photo of what is arguably the most magnificent piece of art in the world?!
After leaving the Vatican we went on to see St. Peter's Square, where the Pope greets his people. That is quite the square, to say the least. I don't even know how many thousands of people it seats, but I can only imagine the chaos when the Pope makes an appearance. We also went into the Basillica at St. Peter's square where all the pope's of the past are buried, that too is a beautiful building.
Day four started with a trip to the Roman Colosseum. That truly is a sight to behold. Everything in Rome is so grand and ornate. To be standing in the middle of a structure that once represented a spectacle of torture and blood shed was pretty incredible. To think that people came from all over just to watch someone die is something I cannot fathom. The Colosseum itself however, is amazing.
We then spent a few hours just walking around Rome, trying to take it all in. We wandered into a Cathedral, checked out a swarm of old ruins and saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was unreal being in the center of a city built amidst ruins. A city that once thrived and fell, and is now a tourist attraction, history lesson and home to modern day Romans.
Day 5 & 6:
Onto Venice! Another thing I love about Italy is that every city is so unlike the next, they are all equally beautiful but have completely different things to offer. Venice is such a unique city, with so much culture, diversity and beauty. Of course we could not pass up the opportunity to take an authentic Gondola ride through the canals of such a famous city. We couldn't have chosen a more perfect time for a ride either. The sun was getting ready to set, the tourists had calmed down and the shops were starting to close. It was so quiet and peaceful and really was a great way to see the city. We spent two days in Venice, taking in the culture, the people, the food, the mutli-colored buildings, and of course, making our way to St. Mark's square. Home of thousands of pigeons, tourists, and vendors. It was incredible, to say the least.
The original plan was to drive back to Milan, where we were flying home from, and see the museum Delle Santa Maria, where the painting of the Last Supper is. But, before getting to Milan we stopped in Verona to see the still standing home of Juliet. I even stopped to photograph the famous balcony where she called to her forbidden lover.
Once we arrived in Milan, we had the disappointing realization that tickets to see The Last Supper were sold out for the next two weeks. We tried getting tickets online prior to our trip but had no luck. So needless to say, that was a no go. We now found ourselves at the end of our trip, in Milan with nothing left to do. So, exhausted, we decided to turn the car in early and call it a night. Although the thought of ending our trip by sitting in a hotel room flipping through Italian tv channels until we got tired wasn't exactly appealing. So, at the last minute, as we were driving to the car rental drop off, we decided that Switzerland was a much more enticing plan. Rob's sister used to live in a small lake side town in Switzerland called Montruex, that was only 3 hours away, so we punched that into our GPS and at 4 o' clock in the afternoon, we were on our way!
The drive to Switzerland is no less scenic that the trips we took throughout the country. We were driving through vast Italian towns and vineyards when suddenly we were staring straight at the caps of the Swiss Alps. Caps that quickly became hills as our route climbed in elevation. Once at the border we were surrounded by raging waterfalls and melting snow caps. Let me tell you, the landscape in Switzerland surpasses the beauty of anything I have yet to see. I was literally completely breath and speechless. Never have I been in such awe of natural beauty. It was a photographers dream. The scenery was that of something straight out of a fairytale, completely unreal and more amazing that anything you can dream up.
Once we arrived in Montreux we walked along the board walk of Lake Geneva and found a quaint and authentic restaurant to have our final meal at. I had the best baked lasagna of my life there, and I had to drive to Switzerland to get it. After dinner we took in the scenery a little longer and watched the sunset. It was the perfect way to celebrate another year of our marriage, and end our 8 day adventure to some of the most beautiful places on earth.