December 13, 2019
Adventure. That’s my “word of the year” for 2020. Granted, I started a bit early – but your girl is going to be hitting that airstrip quite a bit next year. My goal is to get almost all of my traveling and bucket list locations done by the time I’m 30, and my 26th birthday is tomorrow – so, you bet I’m hitting the ground running. Also, it’s hard to believe I only met Christina a year ago, and we’ve already been out of the country together twice! (Our meet-aversary is Dec 21st – almost exactly one year!) This time, Christina and I tackled Italy! And by tackled, I mean we visited FOUR cities in FOUR days! Here’s our recap along with camera and iPhone photos! Enjoy!
It started with a trip to NYC – I’m not counting that as a city, but technically it is. One four hour bus ride later, and we hit the big apple. Grabbed some lunch, and then made our way to the ticket booth. I saw my first Broadway play, y’all! Let me tell you what, Frozen on Broadway is absolutely incredible – dare I say, better than the movie! And to tell you I’m officially obsessed with Broadway is an understatement. I’ve loved the theater since I was a little girl – always wanting to be a set designer, and a stage manager. I was even a stage tech in highschool – so to see it in the big leagues was an amazing experience! So much so, that I immediately bought tickets to my next show in March (I GET TO SEE DARREN CRISS LIVE AND I’M SLIGHTLY FREAKING OUT NBD). Anyway, I digress. Frozen was AH-MAZING. 10/10 highly recommend.
After the show, we hopped in an Uber and made our way over to New Jersey for our flight to Portugal.
NYC to Porto, Porto to Lisbon, Lisbon to Rome. About 20 hours of travel with delays + layovers combined. Don’t recommend TAP Portugal unless it’s a direct flight – the process was kind of a nightmare. Once we arrived to Rome, we only had time to walk around a bit an grab some dinner before trying to fall asleep for our early morning the next day. Thankfully most restaurants are open until about 1am, so finding food is never difficult!
On our first official day in Italy, we woke up early to see the Trevi fountain at sunrise and to catch the 9am train to Frascati. Frascati is a small town about an hour outside of Rome, and is famous for their white wines and small town charm. We were greeted by our sweet Italian tour guide, and she promptly took us through the town. She explained so much about the small shops we passed, the butcheries, and the markets. The bakeries and butcher shops have been around since the 1700’s and the 1800’s and are still maintained by the same families, many many generations later! We sampled local biscuits and breads as she chatted to the workers about their day, translating to us as she went. We met the current owner of the bakery which is a sweet, but feisty 93 year old woman, who you could tell was everyone’s grandma around there! As we made our way to the last little shop, the taxi van pulled up to take us to our next stop – the winery!
At the winery, we chatted with Paula about her family business and she showed us the ends and outs of her family’s vineyard, equipped with both grapes and olives! We also found out that a couple in our group got engaged a week prior, so I offered to take some photos of them in the olive trees and they were stoked! After our trip through the vineyard, we made our way through the bottling process, sampling grapes and chatting along the way through the old volcanic mines their house sits on. We then headed upstairs into their quaint little home for a tasting and pairing. Our tour guide had stopped and picked up some fresh veggies and porchetta at a market on our walk, and put together cute pairing trays for all of us! We then sampled each of their three wines, all while eating fresh tomatoes and dipping bread in their home-made olive oil!
After the tasting, the taxi bus came and took us back to the little town of Frascati. We then stopped off at a small restaurant and had an amazing lunch with our new friends! ( I forgot to mention, ALL of this was included in our tour and it was only 60 euros! ) Lunch consisted of an antipasta of prosciutto, peccorino cheese and bruschetta, followed by a delicious bowl of carbonara and guanciale (or pork cheek). After lunch I snagged our new Australian friends, Annie and Braydon, for a few more pictures around Frascati!
Once we finished with everything, we walked the little town solo. We stopped by the small Christmas market, where I grabbed a new scarf (or two 😉 ) and then made our way back to the train to Rome.
When we got back to Rome, we walked a few miles – taking in the night life, and stopped into a few stores here and there. We passed by a massage parlor and spontaneously opted to get a Thai massage after all that travel! This was my first massage experience, and it. was. incredible. And exactly what we needed after 10+ hour on a plane!
Our second day in Italy was a full Roman experience! We got up super early (again.) and made our way to the Vatican. We stopped to grab a snack before heading on our tour (which was the most expensive meal we had, mind you. We were warned that the food across from the Vatican was over-priced, but we made that decision anyway haha. Don’t recommend that!). We opted to get passes into the Vatican for about 60 euros to see the Sistine Chapel before the museum even opened. I HIGHLY recommend this! It was just us and a small group of people walking through, as opposed to 100+ in tight quarters! The Sistine Chapel was beautiful, but a lot smaller than you’d imagine. The amount of hard work and dedication you experience through out is just unreal.
We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the Vatican, because we had another tour that afternoon at the Coloseum that we had to get to. So, we walked a bit ( and by a bit, I mean we averaged 20,000 steps, or 6-10 miles, a day. ) So we grabbed an AMAZING lunch at this little restaurant in between the Coloseum and The Vatican, which consisted of gnocchi, tortellini, and spaghetti and lots and lots of bread (which is the best, obvi).
Through out the whole trip we were always on the hunt for good vintage, and luxury consignment shops – so needless to say, we hit the jackpot on our way to the Coloseum and I bought myself my first Louis Vuitton purse! (HBD to me 😉 )
The Coloseum was an amazing experience, besides the MASS amount of panhandlers and scammers there are around. We must have been stopped 12 times to try to buy water or bracelets or toys from someone. We were warned by our tour guide to never ever buy water or anything from them, since they re-use the bottles and don’t clean anything! That was really the only downfall of the experience there, other than that – our AirBnB tour guide was incredibly informative, and very sweet. We didn’t get to stay for the entire tour since we had ANOTHER train to catch, but what we did get to see was so cool!
So, this other train we had to catch was COMPLETELY spontaneous. We originally weren’t visiting anywhere else other than Florence and Rome, BUT as Christina and I were talking about our favorite graffiti artist, Banksy, and how he has never really been to Italy – something amazingly coincidental pops up on her Instagram. HE WAS IN VENICE! Needless to say, we reevaluated our plans and made room for a day in Venice to hunt down this new Banksy piece!
One 3 hour train ride, and INCREDIBLE train station cafeteria dinner later, we were in Venice. ( No, seriously. The best meals we ate were at the train station cafeteria! )
Day five is a bit of a short one honestly. We were only in Venice less than 24 hours – but it was totally worth it! The night we arrived, we took a water taxi (this is really the only form of transportation. The actual taxi guy laughed at us when we showed him our destination.) and arrived right out side of our hotel. This hotel was gorgeous! The room we had was pretty tiny, but it served its purpose. Sleeping. We dropped our bags and headed next door to grab a bite to eat. Second dinner (no seriously, we ate like every 3 hours. ) was a delicious Greek salad, a pizza, and a few antipastas of fried olives and mozzarella. Then we headed back to the room to catch some shut eye.
Christina and I woke up around 7:30 am and headed down stairs for the most insane “continental breakfast” I’ve ever had. The room was huge and filled with literally ANYTHING you wanted. From hot cocoa, to a salad bar, to fresh fruit and jams, to parfaits and a hot food station, the possibilities were actually endless.
After filling our tummies, we then headed out on our quest to find Banksy. Turns out we were less than a 15 minute walk (this is how most Europeans determine distance haha) from it! Our hotel concierge knew exactly where it was and mapped out our walk for us. As we strolled through the towns, you could see all of the restaurants getting in their fresh produce and meats for the day by boat, which was pretty interesting. Pretty much everything was done by water here, even the garbage was collected by boat!
We rounded a corner and my god, we did it! We found the Banksy piece! Finding these pieces are so much fun – it’s like an adult Easter egg hunt! If you don’t know much about Banksy and why this was so fun – I highly suggest reading up on it, its so interesting!
After that – we literally went back to our hotel, grabbed all of our stuff and headed back to the train station. Not until we did a little shopping and had gelato and crepes though, of course. The leather markets in Italy are down right insane. All the leather is genuine and so fairly priced, it took everything I had not to buy every single piece!
By 2pm we were on our way to Florence!
Now for my favorite! We got to Florence a little after 4pm, and headed to our AirBnB. This was the prettiest AirBnB, by far! The only downfall, it was up 6 flights of stairs – with NO elevator – but the view was INCREDIBLE! Dropped our luggage, had a tour of the flat, and – you guessed it – went out for dinner. Well, we went out to explore, really, but food is never a far away thought haha!
Florence is my favorite for a couple of reasons – the atmosphere, one. The atmosphere in Rome feels a bit like D.C. very busy, kind of touristy, and a lot of people everywhere. The atmosphere in Florence was LIVELY. Everyone is just out, enjoying themselves – drinking, shopping, eating, and just being. There are tourist-y exhibits to visit but the over-all feel was just more alive! Two – the shopping! It was definitely the shopping capitol of Italy, let me tell you! There were stores EVERYWHERE! From H&M to Chanel and everything in between. It was a girls dream! I had so much fun just window shopping, it was crazy. The only catch – everything, everywhere, closes at 7:30pm (besides restaurants, of course). Like immediately. So, you have to work fast if you get a late start!
And lastly, the food! The food was amazing! The dinner we had there was definitely our favorite. We just stumbled upon the most Italian restaurant, equipped with red checkered tablecloths and waiters in red dinner jackets and bow ties! All that was missing was an accordion player and we would have been smack dab in a Disney movie! Dinner consisted of: Sangria, fried zucchini (amazing!), peccorino cheese with pears and honey, and salad with ravioli, spaghetti, and papparadelle. We topped the night off with FOUR desserts! Gelato with Grand Marnier, Gelato with Espresso, tartufo, and cheese cake! BEST NIGHT EVER!
The next morning we ventured over to the flea market and, your girl was in literal heaven, oh my gosh. We could only visit one flea market because I would be dead broke if we hit up any more, I promise you that. DESIGNER ITEMS EVERYWHERE. I bought myself a brand new Burberry coat for 80 euros (a steal, seriously!) and I got a few new outfits from one of the other vendors – everything was so fairly priced and SO flipping cute! It was so hard not to buy everything I saw!
After that, we walked to the Christmas market where we had lunch and pastries while we strolled through all the goodies.
And by 1pm we were in our taxi on our way to the train station back to Rome!
You best believe we grabbed second lunch at that train station cafeteria when we made it back to Rome. The burrata and mozzarella caprese at that cafeteria was TO DIE FOR!
We then finished up our last night with a (very long) walk around Rome. We made our way all the way to the other side to see this luxury consignment shop, which was WAY too expensive for us – haha! And then trekked to the Roman Christmas market. Unfortunately the Christmas market was shut down, for reasons unknown, but we still had an amazing dinner in that square! We got fried zucchini flowers (MUST HAVE) and boiled asparagus, which was incredible. Topped off with more pasta, and then our final dessert of tiramisu. After that, we walked our way back to the AirBnB and packed all of our goodies up for our (very, very early) flight in the morning.
This trip was JAM packed with literally everything you’d want to see when visiting the hot-spots of Italy. I am SO thankful to have met Christina and for being able to take these incredible trips together.
If you like this – you’ll also like my PARIS TRIP too!