May 2017
  • Day14

    Florence, Italy - Food Market Tour

    May 31, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - 10am

    Went first by Gilli's, the oldest cafe in Florence, then to the store selling the candy coated almonds which are used to celebrate milestone events, the local deli where our guide, isabella, took us through each section of a local deli explaining the local products, how they are made and how to select them. Enjoyed some locally produced dark chocolate and moved on to the local cafe for iced coffee and cannoli. We learned that cannoli actually originated in France. Then on to the huge indoor/outdoor market. Indoor we sampled many different salami, including wild boar, different ages of peccorino cheese, different kinds of olives, and Chianti Classico wine. Outside, there were many vendors selling all sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as hats, clothing and jewelry. We bought cantaloupe that was the sweetest I have ever eaten! We also bought strawberries, cherries, tomatoes, oranges and of course wine and cheese. The market was full of the smells of all the fresh produce - I would LOVE to have access to a market like that! We saw people sampling cows stomach that was showcased in a large glass deli case, both we all passed on that - but there was every other type of beef, pork, poultry and fish that you could possibly imagine! Our guide, Isabella, was with Urban Adventures and definitely deserves a 5 star rating!

    Food Market Tour
    After meeting your guide in Piazza della Repubblica, jump right in to the Florence food scene by checking out typical delicatessens where Florentines do their daily shop for fresh produce. Most of the vendors in the delicatessens are the owners of the shops who specialize in the products that they sell, making them the ultimate food experts. Head to an Italian shop that specializes in Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto from some of the best areas in Italy. Enjoy a cappuccino at a boutique chocolate shop, and, of course, try a chocolate or two while you're there. You'll also stop by the oldest wine cellar in Florence, which sits right by the iconic Duomo. Continue by paying a visit to one of Florence’s most vibrant marketplaces. See locals shop for their daily meals and check out a selection of fresh buffalo mozzarella, ricotta, and other cheeses. Taste cured Tuscan prosciutto sliced by hand, fresh bread, and roasted porchetta, as well as sample olives direct from the farmer’s home on the Amalfi Coast. As you go, learn about the traditions behind these foods from your guide. In the indoor part of the market, pass stalls filled with handmade pasta, cheese, fish, meat, and pous ltry. Top off your tour with a glass of wine (or Italian soda) accompanied by toasted bread and seasonal toppings. After two hours, your tour will conclude at your original departure point.
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  • Day13

    Saturnia, Italy

    May 30, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - Saturnia Thermal Springs - 9:30 am
    The waters that feed the spa and baths originate from springs two hundred metres below the earth and are heated by the thermal activity of Maremma's volcanoe Monte Amiata - the second largest volcano in Italy. They flow at a rate of eight hundred litres per second filling the individual baths and pools of the "Le Cascate del Mulino" (The Mill Falls) and then the "Le Cascate del Gorillo" waterfalls with waters at a constant 37.5 °C.

    Spa holiday in ItalyThe perfect location for a family spa holiday in Italy
    Containing the minerals sulphur, carbon, sulphate and the gases of hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide, they are considered to have therapeutic properties for skin, respiratory tract, blood circulation and rheumatic ailments, as well as cosmetic and wellbeing effects on the mind and body. No run of the mill place for a dip then!

    Thermal baths of Saturnia Maremma Tuscany Italy

    My first visit was on a Friday night, when this photograph was taken. I'd spent a fantastic day at Pitigliano and the Vie Cave and on my way home decided to visit the springs - I highly recommend this as a great itinerary for a Maremma day out. It was a glorious May evening (Spring is one of the very best times to visit Maremma and Tuscany) and when I first put my feet into the swishing blue white waters the sensation was wonderful and brought an instant huge smile to my face that stayed for days. I even skipped back to my car (I'm well over 40 years of age)!.... the magic of Maremma.

    Spa Saturnia thermal springs, Maremma Tuscany Italy

    You can sit in the midst of the gushing waterfalls themselves, in the baths and pools that they fill, or the streams that their waters in turn fall into. There are even some baths that are lovely and shallow: perfect for toddlers. The gods may have been fighting when they made this place, but the result is a relaxing paradise for everyone.

    On a practical note: best to remove any silver jewellery or it will blacken and keep you camera in its case when not in use.
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  • Day12

    Trastevere, Italy

    May 29, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Monday, May 29, 2017 - 3:30pm - Trastevere Twilight Foodie Tour

    Met Francesco for a 4 hour guided tour on Isola Tiberina. What a great guide. His wife Rachel is from Ashville NC. We enjoyed the tour with a couple from Indiana with their 2 daughters. We had an aperitif at Da Enzo AL 29, Prosecco with fresh cantaloupe and prosciutto with fresh mozzarella . We also sampled pizza, fried rice balls (suppli), "sample" of pasta (cacao e pepe) as they called it but it to us was a full meal., gelato, peccorino cheese, salami and the most awesome assortment of cookies you can imagime. And of course we drank plenty of different wines .... we lost count.
    All of the stops on the tour (8) were family owned and had been in a family for generations. The highlight of the tour was enjoying wine and a pork stew in a cellar of a church that was built 80 years BC. Yes BC the oldest building we have ever been in. An interesting fact of the cellar was that in the 1800's when excavating after so many years of being underground, a famous statue was discovered that had been stolen and hidden from the Romans.

    Trastevere is a neighborhood like no other. Its ivy-coated, cobblestone streets come alive at night earning it comparisons to Greenwich Village and Paris’s Left Bank. It’s where Romans choose to eat with their families on a Sunday and where young Romans go for buzzing nightlife at evenings and weekends. You can’t leave Rome without walking through these streets, tasting the best food on offer, and taking a million pictures of this amazing hotspot.
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  • Day11

    The Pantheon, Rome Italy

    May 28, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Sunday, May 28, 2017
    The magnificent Pantheon (A.D. 120) is the best-preserved temple from ancient Rome.
    This stately building, about a 20-minute walk from the Forum, is the ideal remedy for a brain tired from mentally reconstructing the Colosseum or Forum.
    The Pantheon survived so well because it's been in continuous use for more than 2,000 years. It went almost directly from being a pagan temple to being a Christian church.
    Even if built to exalt the gods, the Pantheon is just as much a symbol of Roman human greatness. The massive, 40-foot granite columns that support its portico are so huge, it takes four tourists to hug one. Entering here (it's free), you feel the power and ambition that fueled the Empire.
    Inside, you stand in a cavernous rotunda, a testament to Roman engineering. The subtle interior illumination is defined by the oculus, the opening at the top of the dome and the only source of light. (Once a year, on Pentecost Sunday, tens of thousands of rose petals flutter through this opening in the traditional "rain of red roses.")
    The dome's dimensions are classic — based on a perfect circle, as wide as it is tall (140 feet) — and its construction is ingenious. It's made of poured concrete, which gets thinner and lighter with height — the highest part is made with pumice, an airy volcanic stone.
    This was the largest dome anywhere until the Renaissance. Only then did Brunelleschi jump-start that new artistic era by borrowing some of Pantheon's features for his cathedral dome in Florence.
    The wonder of ancient Rome is not how much of it has disappeared, but how much still exists. For nearly 2,000 years, the Colosseum, Forum, and Pantheon have been the iconic symbols of the Eternal City. After doing the Caesar Shuffle, you'll give an unreserved thumbs-up to Rome's enduring grandeur.
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  • Day11

    The Roman Forum, Rome, Italy

    May 28, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Sunday, May 28, 2017

    The Forum is right next door to the Colosseum (and covered by the same ticket). These few acres of land — arguably the most important piece of real estate in Western civilization — were the ancient center for politics, religion, and commerce. This is where the Vestal Virgins tended the perpetual fire, where Julius Caesar was cremated, and where Emperor Caligula had his palace.
    Today the site is littered with small fragments of the huge buildings that once stood here. The main street — the Via Sacra — still cuts authoritatively through the heart of the Forum, just as it did 2,000 years ago. But you'll mostly see crumbling columns and half-buried foundations. Still, walking along the rubble paths, I can't help but think I'm kicking some of the same pebbles that stuck in Julius Caesar's sandals.
    What happened to the long-gone buildings? Earthquakes destroyed some of them, but more than anything, they were scavenged by Roman citizens. They carted off the precut stones and reused them in palaces and churches (some bits of the Colosseum ended up in St. Peter's Basilica across town).
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  • Day11

    The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

    May 28, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Sunday, May 28 - 3:30 pm

    Begin peeling back Rome's past at the Colosseum, the city's most popular relic (legend has it that as long as the Colosseum stands, so shall the city of Rome). From the start, the Romans were expert builders. They pioneered the use of concrete and the rounded arch, which enabled them to build on this tremendous scale. This awesome example of ancient Roman engineering was begun in A.D. 72, when the Empire was nearing its peak.
    Imagine being an ancient spectator arriving for the games. Fans poured in through ground-floor entrances. Your ticket (likely a piece of pottery) was marked with your entrance, section, row, and seat number. Stepping inside, you can almost hear the roar of the Empire. Ancient Romans, whose taste for violence exceeded even modern America's, came to the Colosseum to unwind. The games began with a few warm-up acts — dogs attacking porcupines, female gladiators fighting each other, or a one-legged man battling a dwarf. Then came the main event: the gladiators. The best were rewarded like our modern sports stars, with fan clubs, great wealth, and, yes, product endorsements.

    What do we do next
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  • Day11

    Arrived Rome

    May 28, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Arrived safely....VERY LONG FLIGHT. Bags made it we are off to find our driver and based on the number of people and all those drivers holding signs it may take us 2 hours to find the driver.

    One half hour later ........found our driver heading to our hotel in Rome.Read more

  • Day10

    Arrived Atlanta on time 3:00

    May 27, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Good flight but we are worried bag check ststus shows only one of are two bags that we were forced to check have gotten onto the airplane to Rome other one still MIA. Waiting on our traveling partners to arrive Atlanta.Read more