Monday, May 13, 2013

Kim and Taylor Take Italy: Florence and Rome

Part two of our Italian adventure:

Let's just start of by saying the second half of the trip could have been much smoother. Basically, anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. For example, my duffle bag was way to heavy and awkward to cary around so we ended up buying a second rolling one. We got on the wrong train one day. We walked for miles to the wrong location on several different occasions, and many other similar fiascos.

So when we arrived to Florence, we dragged my two duffles through the cobblestone streets to our hostel. Where we found about 10 flights of stairs we had to drag them up. Thankfully a nice Italian man offered to help us. After checking in, we set off to explore the wonderful Florence.

We really enjoyed Florence because it was a really good size. In Rome, we were so overwhelmed with how big it was and found ourselves wishing we were back in little old Florence!

We walked around the big open-air markets where vendors all sold basically the same types of products such as scarves and all sorts of italian leather goods such as journals, bags, coats, gloves and various other things. I was very well behaved and only bought myself a scarf!

We set out to explore and just started walking. We found a nice little park filled with wild flowers so of course we picked some and put them in our hair. We spent some time chasing pigeons and running around the park like nuts. Finally we continued on our walk where Taylor decided we should go check out the famous Old Bridge. I agreed and let her lead the way. After walking about 2 miles in the blazing heat -I'm talking about 90 degrees- SO HOT! We realized we were walking to the wrong bridge. We laughed it off and got a drink before setting off for the correct bridge. Finally, we made it! It was so worth the long walk because it was beautiful! It looked just like how you would picture an Italian town!
The hundreds of Italian leather goods

Thinking of my Dollar store kiddos Lex and Nick ;)

Playing with the pigeons!
These flowers were everywhere!
The man who made us our drinks spent 15 minutes working on them, he was so cute! He wanted them to be perfect! 
The bride far off in the distance... 

There it is!

Probably my favorite picture of the whole trip, everything about it makes me laugh! 

Looking out from the middle of The Old Bridge -the whole bridge had jewelry shops along it
After our bridge adventure we wandered around the other side of the bridge which is a bit less popular to the tourists. It was really nice over there! We grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant that was recommended to us and then headed over to a bar that was also recommended. For dinner I had a creamy tortellini which was delicious! The bar was also really cool because with your purchase of a drink your table gets this huge platter of munchies! It was awesome! The bar was also really funky and decorated in a neat way! One thing that I don't like about Italy is that almost all restaurants have service fees. So you have to pay for your meal and then on top of that you have to pay a small fee if you're eating in their facility and using their things.

Why don't we do this in America?!

The next day we set off to check out the famous statue of David. We woke up early hoping to avoid a long line but found ourselves waiting 2.5 hours to see a statue of a naked man. Nonetheless we did it! We even snapped a few ninja pictures even though they were prohibited.

There were benches all set around the backside, so people could sit down and stare/ ponder his rear end.
After we spent a good portion of our day waiting to see David, we went to find the Pizza shop that was featured in The Jersey Shore. We successfully found it but were so full from lunch that we didn't actually stop in.

Fist pumping!
Finally, we headed over to The Duomo and decided to climb the 414 steps to the top of the tower. Don't forget it was still about 85 degrees, and there were no elevators!
Each time we had crawled to a new floor we'd freak out that there was another floor above us. I swear it had no end! Finally, sweating and out of breath we made it to the top and it was well worth it. The view was absolutely incredible!!

There she is!

Chalk art!
After our adventures around the city center, we headed over for dinner to a place recommended by my sister's boyfriend Jeff who had great recommendations when it came to Florence since he studied abroad there. Dinner was as always, delicious. I consumed my unhealthy portion of carbs by ordering a Fettuccine Alfredo. 

Our hostel owner had informed us that we were lucky because we were in Florence for the Notte Bianca. It's an all night festival where everyone crowds into the streets and parties. Stores and bars stay open extra late and theres all sorts of entertainment. We were super excited to partake in the festivities and had no idea what to expect. 

Unfortunately, we weren't impressed with Notte Bianca. It was a very strange night. Its true that the streets where filled with people to the point where you couldn't move. But it was all just confused tourists wandering aimlessly through the streets. The bars were so tightly packed you couldn't even think about getting a seat. Eventually we got frustrated with all of the drunken and annoying tourists getting in our way and decided to turn in for the night.

This wall was covered in real American Dollars!

On our last day in Florence we took a day trip to Pisa. Pisa was about an hour and a half outside of Florence and an easy train ride away. Taylor had already visited Pisa but was nice enough to go back for me.

Pisa is a strange little town that literally only has the Tower in it. Theres nothing else to do or see there. You also have to walk through the town to even get to the tower. It's a strange little place but I'm very glad we went. When I first caught a glimpse of The Leaning Tower I couldn't believe how small it was. It was so funny, for some reason I had pictured it to be this massive tower!

We spent time taking the obligatory leaning tower of Pisa tourist pictures and also laughed at all of the other tourists looking ridiculous doing it.

After we got our pictures and a bite to eat we headed back to Florence! We had a nice last dinner where I ordered a massive calzone (which I finished).

And now onto the main event -Rome! It is safe to say that instead of conquering Rome, Rome conquered us. It began when we took the train from Florence into Rome only to discover that all taxis, no matter where you're going, had a flat rate of 45 euro! We were so mad about this and decided that we would rather just walk to our hotel. The walk took about an hour dragging the world's heaviest suitcases behind us in the 90 degree weather. Needless to say, we were both on the verge of a nervous breakdown. When we finally arrived to our hotel drenched in sweat and very emotional, the receptionist took one look at us and said "Oh, you guys aren't used to the heat are you?" We both had to stop and laugh.
After that whole fiasco we learned that the best way to get around the city was by bus. We headed over to The Spanish Steps. They were gorgeous! I'd seen them before in The Lizzie McGuire Movie :P but this time they were covered in purple and white flowers! I really loved The Spanish Steps! 

After the steps we walked over to The Trevi Fountain! The place was packed with tourists but we pushed and shoved our way up there. It was exactly how I'd pictured it! So beautiful! We both made a wish but surprisingly enough, no Italian pop stars showed up!

Make a wish!

After the fountain we decided to head on over to The Pantheon. I couldn't even grasp the idea of how old this building was. It was located in the center of a busy street with buildings on every side of it. It almost looked like it didn't belong! We went inside to have a look and were very impressed! We learned that The Pantheon is exactly the dimensions of how wide it is as it is tall. Pretty cool!
That night we grabbed some dinner where we shared some Italian pizzas. We also discovered the best gelato place in the entire world. I kid you not, their gelato was to die for! My favorite flavor was their chocolate hazelnut. It literally melted in your mouth! It was so good we went there every night we were in Rome!!

The floor was roped off because when it rains, it too rains in The Pantheon!

yum yum yum yum yum yum
The next day, we woke up early and headed out to check out the main attraction, The Colosseum. We had driven by it in the bus the day before and could not believe our eyes. It was amazing. When we got there the next day, we were not amused that the line to get in went on for miles! We literally could not find the end of it. We would have been waiting all day long in the scorching heat! We decided to pay a little extra and join this tour that would allow us to skip the line and provide us with a tour of both The Colosseum and The Roman Forum. It was definitely worth it, we got right in with no problem! 

Let me just say The Colosseum is massive. It only took the Romans TEN YEARS to complete, ten years. They showed us where the emperor and people with stature would have sat to watch the games. They also explained to us that the little holes all over the place are because The Romans recycled a lot of their buildings. The holes are where they extracted lead pipes from the walls that can now be found in The Vatican. The ruined part of The Colosseum is because it actually lies on a fault line; so the ground beneath it is unstable. We got to walk around The Colosseum on our own for a bit to take pictures and explore. Taylor and I just could not believe that we were actually standing in The Colosseum, it was so surreal!

See all of the holes?

After our tour we grabbed a small snack and gathered for our next tour. It was so hot out we weren't sure if we would make it! Our next tour led us up the street to a huge focus of Roman Ruins. They are literally all over the place. Our tour guide led us around The Roman Forum which used to be a palace for the emperors. He pointed out some pretty cool things such as where Caesar's ashes are said to be buried. 
The Emperor's own personal stadium 

Finally after our tours were all finished, we walked around a bit in the terrible heat taking pictures! Eventually we took the bus over to the other side of the river to Saint Peter's Square. It was so weird actually seeing it because I had just watched it on TV when they were electing the new Pope. It was surreal to actually be there now! The people over there were very religious, selling rosaries and bibles and such everywhere. We walked up and got close to the basilica but didn't go in because our outfits didn't meet the dress-code  You must have your shoulders covered and pants/ dress must go to the knee along with no cleavage. Being in 90 degree weather, we weren't all that disappointed we didn't go in to the vatican. We definitely want to go back though and check out The Sistine Chapel. 

The Pope's balcony 

After our time on the other side of the river we caught a bus back up towards our hotel. With time to kill we decided to check out a park that was recommended to us. I think this was one of my favorite things we did! When we got there it was sunset and the view was incredible! 

We then decided to walk around the park for a bit and discovered these awesome bike-buggy contraptions. For only 12 euro total we couldn't resist and rented one! It was so much fun! We whipped around the park weaving in and out of people walking. The park was gorgeous and was filled with people! We even saw a wedding taking place. 

That night we had our final dinner and of course our final gelato stop. We woke up super early the next morning to catch the train back to Milan. All went smoothly and from there I caught a bus to the airport.  Before though, I had to say goodbye to Taylor, my good friend and travel buddy. I couldn't have asked for a better travel partner; I had so much fun with her! And with that, I said ciao to Italia and made my way back up to Dublin for one last adventure.

Sorry for the world's most incredibly long post!!!

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