Joined October 2021 Message
  • Day9

    Day 8 - Rome -> Athens

    October 21, 2021 in Greece ⋅ 🌬 13 °C

    We've reached our last day in Rome :( But excited for our time in Athens! We still had some wine, cheese, and crackers to finish so that was breakfast! And the white wine we didn't finish went in my water bottle to keep us company on the journey to the airport. We left our lovely host, Emiliano, a little note of thanks on the table and headed out.

    At the train station, we were confused about where to go... until a kind Midwest accent pointed us to the airport train. Using the powers of observation, we recognized his Notre Dame backpack and struck up a convo while avoiding talking about South Bend too much 😂 He is studying abroad in Vienna, but was headed to Dublin for his weekend, likely to hang out with other Catholics. A nice dude, we sat with him on the train as we sipped our wine and discussed the cities we would be going to in the near future. He had been to Budapest recently so had some good recommendations. All good things must come to an end and after a tearful goodbye, we disembarked the train and headed to our gate.

    The flight was close to empty. After an easy flight and cab ride, we made it to Athens. Our host, Kostis, greeted us and showed us the Airbnb. We could not have picked a place with a better view of the Acropolis. Tired from travel and impressed with the porch view, we sampled some Greek beer and wine(?). It was nice having a relaxing day.

    Dinner was at a nearby Greek seafood restaurant. After some delicious octopus, shrimp, and tzatziki (and anchovies for Dave 🤮), we went home and quickly fell asleep.
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  • Day8

    Day 7 - Florence

    October 20, 2021 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Today is our day trip to Florence!

    We woke up, packed some yogurt for breakfast to eat on the train, and made the 45 minute journey to the train station. We met Dave's parents at the train station, boarded the train, and then spent much of the ~2 hr ride napping.

    Upon arrival, Dave's parents went to check in to their hotel before lunch while we went to check out the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, a jaw-dropping, Renaissance church. The line was too long to get in before lunch, but we walked around the outside. Stunning. Fun to see some more Renaissance buildings and artwork in Florence after all of the baroque churches in Rome. We then headed to lunch at 4 Leoni. Unfortunately, there's not much good to say about this lunch. While the salad Dave and I shared was yummy (purple cabbage, chestnuts, pumpkin, and melted gorgonzola) and my eggplant parmesan was good, Dave and his mom got very dry pork chops and his dad got some uninspired meatballs, all delivered with some Florence arrogance. Then onto the Uffizi gallery.

    The walk to the Uffizi gallery was beautiful and bustling. The bridge we crossed to get there was home to some stunning views of the city. At the museum, we saw many masterpieces, the most memorable being the Botticellis (Spring and birth of Venus, among others) and the Leonardos. It's a robust collection and we were thoroughly museumed-out after our 2-3 hours exploring. Got some delicious Gelato (Debra and I agreed this was the best milk chocolate Gelato we've had so far!) and then parted ways with Dave's parents until Vienna.

    Dave and I then went to a panini shop recommended by one of his friends to grab dinner for the train. When we arrived, it was clear we had never been there before so the guy who worked there gave us ample samples (haha). He let us try each of the 4 different cheeses as well as the 4 different meats so we could choose our favorites. We ended up with a salami and pecorino panini with roasted red pepper and sundried tomatoes. Then we made it to the train station and started our journey back to Rome!
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  • Day7

    Day 6 - Forum, Colosseum, and Truffles

    October 19, 2021 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Woke up with more sights to see in Rome! Today was ancient day. Our entry time to the colosseum was 1:30 but that gave us time to see the forum before. On the way to the forum, we saw the state house, another grand and ornate building. Weaving through crowds, we eventually found the forum entrance.

    After the forum, we made our way over the colosseum nearby after picking up prosciutto and cherry tomatoes for a quick picnic inside. Upon entering, we found a seat with a beautiful view and plopped down for our meal. Fellow tourists passed by, seemingly envious of our big brain picnic idea. We were only missing limoncello to wash it all down. After our picnic, we spent time exploring the colosseum and artifacts in the museum. We then headed home to rest up before a truffle dinner with Dave's parents. On our walk home, we made a quick stop in to one of the churches that just has a Caravaggio hanging on the wall (one of the 6 church Caravaggios our Airbnb host circled on the map for us).

    Our dinner reservation was 7:30 for a truffle restaurant called Ristorante Pietro Valentini, another spot recommended by our wonderful Airbnb host. It was nice to overlap with Dave's parents and see them for dinner before our Florentine adventure with them tomorrow. Dave and I ordered a salad to start and then shared a tagliolini with fresh shaved white Truffles and a mushroom risotto with fresh shaved black Truffles. The food was to die for and our waitress, Simona, made the experience unforgettable. It was welcoming and delicious, the type of experience we were expecting from a 3rd generation family-run Italian restaurant. We debated stopping for Gelato on the way home, but we all agreed we were thoroughly stuffed. Another unforgettable day and time to rest up before our day trip to Florence tomorrow.
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  • Day6

    Day 5 - Rome / Vatican City

    October 18, 2021 in Vatican City ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Our morning started off with a bit of urgency. Thinking we had left enough time to make our guided tour of the Vatican museums at 11:30, we arrived at St. Peter's Basilica at 11:20, but could not find the correct line. After talking to a hilariously-dressed Swiss guard, we learned that the entrance for the Vatican museums was was 1km away. It would have been helpful if the tickets had the address on them. But alas, we channeled our inner Usain Bolt and booked it over to the entrance. We waited in the line to get inside and were helped by a lovely lady to join our tour minutes before they departed for the museums. Luckily we only missed the intro. Thank you Francis. We knew we would be seeing the Sistene Chapel, but we didn't really have much of an idea for what else we'd be seeing. As the holy father would say, holy bananas. Gold, more gold, Raphael, Michaelangelo, Bellini, Roman sculptures, etc. Each room seemed more ornate than the next. And boy were there MANY rooms. It felt like every square inch was covered with heavily stylized detail. It was truly a sensory overload. And we hadn't even gotten to the Sistene Chapel yet. In the final museum stretch, we were surprised to find more contemporary artists such as Van Gogh, Dali, Matisse, and Picasso, an interesting juxtaposition from what had come before. Few people even stopped to look at these big name artworks, rushing to the end goal of the Sistene Chapel. But we were patient and got to look at individual brush strokes up close without a crowd. It was amazing. But finally we made it to the Chapel. We were certainly blown away, but after all we had already seen, it didn't blow us away as much as we thought it would. I'm sure the "wow" moment would have come if we had started there. But we had already been desensitized by seeing a great number of masterpieces and an incredible accumulation of wealth. Nonetheless, it is truly a sensational experience. A neurotic, type A, Michaelangelo must have been a true mad man to paint that whole Chapel himself. The true grand finale after exiting the Chapel was a collection of signed soccer memorabilia addressed to Pope Francis accompanied by photos of the pope with Messi and other superstars. This pope knows how to party.

    Our tummies were now grumbling and we were not feeling the greasy-looking, holy pizza. For lunch, we walked a few blocks away to a bakery, arriving right before closing. We got Roman Pizza. Instead of pre-cut slices, the pizza came in a 3 or 4 foot, ovular pie and you indicate how much you would like. With scissors, they lop off a slice and weigh it for price. This is how all pizza should be. Plus, the blueberry pie was unreal. I'm sure there's no butter. After satiating ourselves, we went back to the Basilica and stood in line to get inside the church itself (different entrance than museum).

    Grander than I could have ever imagined, it's clear why this is the heart of Catholicism. Walking in, we immediately saw a Michaelangelo statue. Once again, gold plating and ornate frescos galore. It was interesting to see people practicing in all of the different prayer spots (7 total). There was even a Donatello located in a small nook right off of the book shop.

    For dinner, delicious leftovers from Roscioli last night. Feeling we needed some vegetables, we also stopped and picked up green beans. Amatriciana, carbonara, Buffalo mozzarella, and green beans all washed down with wine. Twas a good dinner 👍
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  • Day5

    Day 4 - Lazy Sunday in Roma

    October 17, 2021 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We initially planned on attending mass at St. Peter's Basilica, but sleep overcame us. We decided after all of the sightseeing and traveling we've been doing, a restful day was in order, especially since Rome is so bustling on the weekends and reserving tables at the top spots is difficult. So we decided to head to the grocery store and pick up some goodies for lunch. We got fresh pasta, pesto, parmesan, and Buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, and some cheese and crackers as we were worried we would not have enough carbs. We're grateful our Airbnb host, Emiliano, was honest when we asked him for the best pesto genovese in Rome. He admitted that the fresh made pesto at grocery stores is so good, it is not worth it to buy at a restaurant. And he was correct! We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch of pesto with some Buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto on the side. After lunch, more lazing about and looking forward to our fancy dinner in the evening. Before dinner, we visited Largo di Torre Argentina, the assassination spot of Caesar with beers in hand. In the millenia following his murder, cats have taken over the space and it is now a cat sanctuary. Then onto the highlight of the day. More pasta. Our dinner was at Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina and we ordered pickled artichokes and steak tartare for appetizers. I ordered the carbonara and Dave ordered the amatriciana, both utterly excellent. We were too full from our appetizers and pasta lunch to get through much, but excitedly took home leftovers. Before hitting the hay, we stopped by a dive bar for a shot of bad tequila and then picked up some limoncello to round out our restful day ahead of our big Vatican adventure tomorrow!Read more

  • Day4

    Day 3 - Naples -> Roma

    October 16, 2021 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Woke up at 9:30 for our 10am check-out time. Realizing we still had a bagful of mozzarella di bufalo in the fridge, we made our way through the entire ball for breakfast... with espresso of course! After writing a little note in the guest book, we said "arrivederchi" to our Airbnb and decided to see the Museo Archaeologico before (barely) catching a train to Rome. Draped with heavy backpacks, we made our way. But to Dave's dismay, as we approached the museum he felt the squish of despair underneath his right shoe. You guessed it. Dog shit, likely from one of Naple's many Dachsunds. However, we would not accept de-feet and proceeded fueled by our passion for archeology. The museum was awesome. What struck us most was the large collection from ancient Egypt, the oldest of their pieces dating back ~4500 years. WOW. Dave put things in perspective after we had walked through the Roman statues, stating that there had been fewer years between us and many of those statues than between those Roman years and ancient Egypt. We then went to the central train station for a train to Rome.

    At the train station, we bought our tickets at the kiosk thinking we would be able to make our train in 5 minutes. Classic Naples, the card reader was taking forever and the machine takes about 3 minutes to print out the tickets. With tix in hand, we sprinted to the train and tried pulling open the doors as the train mockingly pulled out of the station. What a tease. There was another train in 6 minutes that was more expensive so we quickly needed to change tickets and nothing happens super quick here. We got some sass from the ticket lady, she was confusing, but she did her job and again we sprinted to the next train. Once again, doors were locked. We ran down the train trying every single one until we made eye contact with one of the ticket checkers on board. He shook his head and wagged his finger and that's when we pulled out the puppy dog eyes and literally begged. He rolled his eyes and let us on. A miracle. Some great Italian kindness. Exasperated, we collapsed in our seats, excited for the 2 hours of rest we'd get on the train ride.

    A couple of blocks from the train station, we saw a beautiful basilica. Since it was free and the line was short, we decided to check it out. As we went through security, it became clear that the guards may be on strike. The didn't look at anyone and had 4 or 5 beer bottles in their vicinity. Upon entrance, I was reminded once again that the Italians do everything big. Beautiful, ornate, and large in scale, the church was quite the sight. From here, we called a taxi to our Airbnb. When we opened the door, we were greeted by our incredibly warm host, Emiliano. He had a map on the table, and after giving us a quick tour of the place, sat down with us for 30 - 45 minutes to guide us through the city and give us recommendations. Emiliano is clearly in love with his city and really knows the ins and outs as well as Dan Brown, whose books he casually slipped into conversation multiple times. After a shower, we went out on the town to grab some dinner. We decided on a street food place Emiliano had passionately raved about, Trapizzino. "Get the chicken!" He said, describing the juiciness and deliciousness of his favorite dish. I followed his lead, but Dave went for the meatball and we both got arancini. Mama Mia. With hanger subsided and bellies full and happy, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and St. Peter's Basilica. I was excited to add a new country to my list and brought a beer to celebrate (Dave just brought water boo). To conclude our long night walk, we treated ourselves to some Gelato. I got milk chocolate YUM and Dave got Stracciatella. Of course it was freaking awesome. Passing through hoards of sub-20s teens being hooligans on a Saturday night, we made our way home to the heart of bustling Trestevere. To top off an already remarkable day, the Red Sox were rockstars, bumming Dave out as much as the poo this morning. 2 grand slams in the first 2 innings, history was made. Romans got nothin on em. Now it was time for 12 hours of sleep.
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  • Day3

    Day 2 - Naples/Pompeii

    October 15, 2021 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Woke up today excited for our adventure to Pompeii. For breakfast? You guessed it... pizza. Since we didn't want to wait yesterday for L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, we decided this morning would be a good time to beat the crowds and get there right at opening. We arrived and were seated at 10:50 before their opening time at 11. Had we arrived 10 minutes later, we would have waited at least 30 mins! We sat right next to the oven and got to see the whole process. The pizzaiolo was, perhaps, the most stereotypically Italian man we have run across, as he sang to the pizza and tapped beats on the oven in between "OH"s. We may have even heard a "Mama Mia" or two and he may have indicated to us that he had been drinking before the pizza making process. Ah Naples in the morning. But BOY did that man make great pizza. Dave and I easily agreed that this pizza was better than Di Matteo last night. Featured on Eat, Pray, Love, there's a reason this place is the Mecca for pizza lovers. You know it will be a great meal when your food doesn't fully fit on the table (our pizzas had to overlap). After loading up on carbs, we decided it was time for our Pompeii adventure.

    We arrived at the central train station and bought our train tickets. When the display showed the track number, we made our way over, but upon displaying our tickets, we were told that the train was downstairs. Confused, we asked the attendant downstairs where to go and tried to display our tickets and he was the one who told us that there were "track issues" but we could use a different company and pointed us to the ticket office. We bought new tickets and the train came immediately. 45 minutes later, we were in Pompeii!! Pompeii was sick. Really hard to describe in words the scale and beauty. After exploring for about 4 hours, with so much to see we wish we had 20. The frescos and mosaics were incredible, and we were blown away by the still vivid colors. After a Pompeii espresso, we headed back to the train, beers in hand, and made our way back to Naples.

    After resting for a bit at our Airbnb, we ventured out for some Ragú. The first place we tried, however, unfortunately had no tables. So after some more walking and searching, we ended up at Januarius. I got the Ragú and Dave got the seafood spaghetti. We utterly confused out waitress when we asked for a limoncello and a meloncello BEFORE our food. She explained how unusual that is in Italia as it is used here as a "digestive aid" post dinner. After this yummy dinner, we picked up a bottle of sparkling wine on the way home and called it a night.
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  • Day2

    Day 1 - Naples

    October 14, 2021 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    Arrived in Naples! We're jetlagged and tired from travel, but excited to be here. Italian espresso will come in handy.

    From the airport, we tried to go get lunch at L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele as we were early for our 2pm Airbnb check-in. When we showed up, there were tons of people outside, possibly in some unorganized lines. Dave was getting hangry, but unfortunately it seemed like that wait would just be too long. Being close to check-in time, we decided to head to the Airbnb and try our hand later at Lunch.

    The Airbnb is perfect! It is really in the bustling part of Naples. Our street is always full of chachka shops and Italian grandma's screaming at you to buy their pizza and pasta. Upon arrival, we unpacked our backpacks and freshened up after the long night of travel. We then decided to try one of the other pizza places that was on our Airbnb host's recommended list, Pizzeria Di Matteo. Upon arrival, it seemed like it was just an outdoor counter serve place. We ordered a couple of mushroom pizzas, but after waiting for a few minutes we were unsure if that order was heard or placed and we saw others going inside. We asked if we could go inside, were invited in and walked through a room with only employees to a tiny winding staircase up to the seating area. The pizza was DELICIOUS! Dave was happily reunited with a real neopolitan-style pizza and I got to try one from the source for the first time. We ended up with a mozzarella di bufalo pizza and a prosciutto pizza, both phenomenal (Dave's fav = di bufalo, my fav = prosciutto). And finished off lunch with some Limoncello.

    After lunch, we went nearby to look at the Complesso Monumentale Donnaregina - Museo Diocesano di Napoli, a museum spanning both the 14th century church of Donnaregina Vecchia and the 17th century church of Donnaregina Nuova. Even though it said online they close at 7:30, we were bummed when we showed up at 4:15 to be told they close at 4:30 and the last tickets are sold at 4. But even without museum admittance, from right inside the door, we still got to see the overall breathtaking appearance of the inside of one of the churches, filled with beautiful artwork and ornate detailing. But alas, on to the Museo Capodimonte.

    The Museo Capodimonte was a 30 minute walk through residential streets of Italy and up quite a steep hill (the entire time we were very excited for the much easier downhill walk coming home!). You also learn very quickly the lack of law and order in the city. Streets are thin and winding, but there are never one way signs or street lights. And there certainly weren't sidewalks on our route. So we walked mostly single file, doing our best not to be hit by one of the many motorcycles or small cars that sped by. But at last we made it. The museum is located inside a striking palace with great views of the city, given its hillside location. While buying tickets (2 Euros each instead of 10 since we're under 25!), we were told that they close in 20 minutes. It was around 5 and Google said they close at 7:30, but it was now obvious that people just sort of run on their own time here. We decided for 2 Euros it was certainly worth it to do a quick walk through at least some of the massive museum. But unsurprisingly, come 5:30, 5:45, and then even 6pm, we were not asked to leave and there were still many people walking through the museum. It didn't even seem to have closed when we found an exit at 6:15. We enjoyed seeing part of the huge collection of art (we started on the 3rd floor, made our way down to the 2nd, and didn't have any time to even start on the 1st!). We saw works by Titian, El Greco, Raphael, Caravaggio, Bellini, and other Italian greats. We then sat out and enjoyed the stunning view of the city, before working our way back to the Airbnb.

    Dave had made our dinner reservation before the trip for 8pm. We still had a little time so decided to grab a drink at a wine bar nearby. Dave got a Peroni and I decided it was time to try my first Negroni. After drinks and some light bar snacks, we went to our dinner. Recommended by our host, Trattoria C'era Una Volta was located down a small alley and away from the hustle and bustle. Immediately we could tell that we were the only non-Italians in the small restaurant... a good sign! We ordered a pasta with mussels, and a grilled squid dish as this place is praised for their seafood dishes. While we were waiting for food, a guy came in with a tambourine and serenaded the restaurant for about 10 minutes. The food was once again phenomenal (Dave now has me sold on his conviction that Naples is the food capital of Italy). On the way home from dinner, we stopped to grab shampoo and some other goodies at a local market. Then home to rest up before another tiring and eventful day tomorrow!
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