If you haven’t read the first part of this article, click here for a recap.
So, we woke up really early (like 4am early) in Barcelona to catch our flight to Venice. Not so bad. It’s just that our taxi driver to the airport had the stinkiest breath, evaar! OMG! I swear I died. Hans was barely alive.
Anyways, let’s continue with our regular programming.
This was our itinerary in Italy: 2 days in Venice, 2 days in Florence, and 5 days in Rome.
Venice – Day 1
We landed at the Marco Polo Airport (VCE) in Venice. It was a cute little airport filled with noisy tourists. We opted to just ride the bus to go to Piazzale Roma (the main transportation hub at the city center) because it was cheaper. And plus, I trust the bus more than the water taxi. I don’t know how to swim.
Our hotel was only a five-minute walk from the Piazzale Roma. So, after settling in for an hour, we were ready to roam the streets of Venice!
We found out early on that Venice’s street signs were not the best in the world. It was easy to get lost in the city and it felt like a maze. But even if this was the case, Venice was a beautiful city to get lost into. We didn’t mind. The canals, gondolas, and bridges were amazing sights to look at.
After an almost hour of walking, we finally found the famous Piazza San Marco. And here we saw St. Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile, and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). We didn’t go inside of these buildings because we didn’t purchase tickets beforehand, the queue of tourists lining up went on for forever, and we thought that since we are going to Florence and Rome anyway, we can see more art later on. So, we just took pictures and roamed around. And while checking things out, we stumbled upon this $20 guided tour (per person) to three different islands for 4 1/2 hours. I mean, come on. That was a no brainer. We booked the tour for our last day.
Venice – Day 2
It rained on our second day in Venice. It was cold and wet, but that didn’t hinder us in having fun. We went to the famous Island of Murano (they are known for those beautiful glass designs), Island of Burano (which literally looked like a box of crayons – every house was painted in different shade), and the quaint little Island of Torcello (the oldest island in Venice with only 10 inhabitants, but visited by hundreds of tourists everyday). We ended the day with a dinner near one of the canals while overlooking the beautiful crimson sunset (the sun came out later in the day).
Florence – Day 1 and 2
We spent two days in Florence, and I gotta say that it was a city of “I can’t believes.”
I can’t believe we visited almost all of the tourist attractions in Florence in one day! – I swear, they are all in one spot! Well, at least 15 minute walk from each other. Pointe Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery, Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiori Cathedral), Gallerie del Accademia, and Santa Croce Church were all close to each other.
I can’t believe we paid 12.50 euros to see a naked guy! – You know David? The naked guy holding a sling with gigantic hands, with a butt that would make Kim K. weep? The one sculpted by Michelangelo himself? Yeah. That guy.
I can’t believe we had the best gelato in Florence – I am not kidding you. I was transported to the other siiiide, as sung by Adele, from eating that gelato. It was awesomely good.
I can’t believe we got ripped off at a money exchange booth!!!!!!!!!! – This really deserved a LOT of exclamation points. Okay. This is the story. Hans and I were not really running out of cash, but we decided to exchange money anyway, just in case. And so we did. We found this exchange booth just outside the Duomo. It advertised a good rate, but little did we know that they are going to charge us 20% in exchange fees! Yes, peeps. We didn’t see the smaller than tiny print. This was worse than when I got charged $11 for a cup of coffee in Tokyo. Another epic fail. We were outraged, but our motto was — Keep calm, you are in Italy.
Rome – Day 1
Being in Rome was surreal. I mean, IT’S ROME!! It’s one of the oldest and most visited cities in the world. It is also the setting for famous movies like James Bond, The Da Vinci Code, Gladiator, etc.– and we were walking its streets!
Our hotel was located at the Piazza Navona, which was at the city center. Almost every tourist attraction in Rome was within a twenty-minute walk (or less). We went to the closest tourist spots first. We visited the famous Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. They said that if you toss a coin into the fountain, it is highly likely that you will go back to Rome — I threw in one cent.
We wanted to go to the Spanish Steps (famous stairs in Rome), too, and cross it off from our list, but after looking for it for hours, we didn’t find it.
This was the day when I got museum-ed out. Is there such a word? Going to the Vatican Museum, seeing the Sistine Chapel, and visiting St. Peter’s Basilica was like an art overload to me. Though they were all amazing, it was just too much to take in. One thing to point out is that I had goosebumps when we went underground of St. Peter’s Basilica. We saw the tombs of the dead popes, including St. Peter’s. It was an experience I will never forget.
One of the most recognizable structures in the world is the Colosseum. No doubt about it. And there was no way that we were not going to check it out. Let me tell you — it didn’t disappoint. Vespasian built the amphitheater for shows like hunting, gladiator fights, and even executions. While walking around the Colosseum, we overheard one of the tour guides saying that it was actually built for politics – the politicians provided free shows and food to people, and in return, the politicians will gain their favor or support.
We also went to the Roman Forum (ruins of important buildings) afterwards. We tried to find the Spanish Steps again on our second day, but we didn’t have the luck. Spanish Steps have become our unicorn.
This was the day when we saw his holiness, Pope Francis, in the flesh at the Vatican. Since we missed him on his Sunday mass service, we were able to see him on his papal audience, which is every Wednesday. He goes in front of St. Peter Square, and blesses all the people and the things that they bring in to be blessed. Of course, I brought some rosaries (and a little bottle of holy water for my mom) to be blessed to give as souvenirs to my devout Catholic friends and relatives. Again, the experience was amazing and priceless.
We went to the Castel Sant’Angelo after. We also rode the hop-on, hop-off bus and toured the city for an hour. The view on top of the bus was amazing. It was also windy.
And guess what else happened on our 4th day??
Yes! We were able to find the Spanish Steps!!! Yipeeeee!! But guess what??! It was CLOSED for renovation!! OMG! Oh wells.
We got up at like 11:00 am. It was a lazy day, and it was also our last day. We didn’t do much on our fifth day. We only ate gelato, bought last minute souvenirs, and went to the Hilton hotel near the airport. In our trips, we want to be as close to the airport as possible on our last night. Call it paranoia, but we don’t like to rush, be stuck in the traffic, and God forbid, miss our flights on the day of our departure.
Our Italian getaway were full of highs and a few notable lows. Highs, mainly because of the amazing sights, and lows because of three things: (1) our hotel in Rome for four days, although it was close to almost everything, wasn’t the best hotel (search Best Suites Navona and the negative reviews), (2) since Italy was expensive, we felt like we got nickle and dimed at times, and (3) the food wasn’t as great as I thought it would be. It’s probably because we ate where the tourists were and the food were catered to tourists, or probably because I expected too much. All the lows aside, it was still a great experience. I would still choose Rome over Amsterdam at any given time. If Italy is in your bucket list, you should definitely go.
Below are my favorite pictures from Italy. Enjoy! 🙂
At Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile)
The Grand Canal in Venice
The colorful Island of Burano.
Cannolis and other sweets!
At the Grand Canal
Gelato for days!!
Front of the Duomo (Sta. Maria del Fiori Cathedral)
David by Michelangelo
In front of the Vatican
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (Vatican)
Panoramic view of the Trevi Fountain
Overall, our Spain and Italy trip was AWESOME. We had a great time. And because we budgeted and planned our trip, we came back to Hawaii without any debt from our vacation. It’s how it should be. We can’t wait to go on our next trip. Initial planning starts soon. 🙂
How about you? When and where is your next vacation? How’s the planning so far?