Italy Trip: Recap
We are back safe and sound from our trip to Italy and oh boy, it was amazing. I completely fell in love with the country and I’m already dreaming of when we can go back! Just a note: this post is going to be LONG. Instead of splitting this up into multiple posts, I am just going to lay it all out here.
First off, let me be completely honest with you. We tried to do too much in the amount of time we had. We made it work and we survived, but there was a lot of time spent moving from one place to the next. Would I do it differently? Maybe. We have no idea when we will get back to Europe, so we wanted to see as much as we could. But, it definitely made things more challenging. And tiring.
We also made a lot of mistakes during this trip, which I will tell you all about in this post. This was our first trip to Europe and as much as people try to give you advice, you sometimes don’t fully understand it all until you experience it yourself.
Alright, let’s dive in!
Traveling TO Italy: our first flight was 10 hours and it was a red eye to Amsterdam. This was probably one of the most challenging parts of the trip because Knox was all out of sorts, wanting to go to bed, but unable to stay asleep. Luckily, we had the nicest people around us who were very understanding. And our airline (KLM) was so incredible that they moved the person who was in our row with us, so we had a full row. We definitely survived this flight, and did not thrive. But overall, Knox did great.
We then had a two hour flight to Rome. Once we got on the plane, we learned that we were going to have to sit on the tarmac for an hour. At this point, I was feeling terrible. The morning we left for the trip I could tell I was coming down with a cold and at this point, I hadn’t slept and was exhausted and feeling so sick. Joel took Knox and stood in the back of the plane until we took off. Luckily, he fell asleep and then slept for the whole flight. Praises! Next up was taking a train into Rome, then walking to our hotel.
We stayed in Hotel Quirinale and arrived late in the day (around 7pm local time), so shortly after we arrived we showered and then got dinner. We were all exhausted (and I was still feeling terrible), but rallied for our first night in Italy. We got pasta, pizza, and prosecco. After dinner, we decided to just stroll for a bit and ended up finding the capitol building of Rome, Trajan’s column, and the Colosseum. We then fell into bed and hoped we would be able to wake up in the morning.
Our plan for this next day was to do ALL the things in Rome. The Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, etc.
And then we hit some bumps in the road.
We didn’t have the best plan in place (we were all still VERY tired) and just started walking. After sometime, we decided to go pick up our “skip the line” passes for The Vatican and Basilica but after an hour of trying to find the office, we found out it was closed. So, we then decided to extend our stay in Rome the next day and The Vatican and Basilica the next day, and do all the other places we wanted to see that current day. So, we went to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, and continued to just stroll the streets of Rome.
We ended up walking over 10 miles that day. We ended our day with room service (my favorite meal of the entire trip, ironically) and passed out at midnight.
Day two would then be spent touring St. Peter’s Basilica and The Vatican. After that, we would get our rental car and drive to our next location: Tuscany.
We loved St. Peter’s Basilica. It was incredibly emotional and breathtaking. I took art history classes in high school and college and absolutely loved it. So, being able to see the art was such a special treat.
TIP: Make sure you buy a pass to skip the line for these places. We aren’t tour people, so we didn’t purchase tour tickets. But being able to skip the HUGE lines was a game changer!
For us, St. Peter’s Basilica was much more enjoyable than The Vatican. We expected it to be different and Knox was also pretty fussy the entire time we were there. So, it was stressful at times. I wish we had had more time to look at the art. The Sistine Chapel was beautiful, but to be honest it was hard to actually spend time looking at it. The guards are pushing you through the room and there are so many people, that it was hard to actually see it.
After we left The Vatican, we spent the remainder of the day getting lunch, our rental car, packing up, and driving to our next place in Tuscany. Our car was way too small and the 3.5 hour drive was not the most enjoyable experience. Ha! But, we were able to make the best out of it and the scenery was AMAZING. I mean it when I say Italy is amazing. It’s truly magical.
We were in the Chianti region in Tuscany and arrived late at night so we weren’t really able to see where we were staying. The next morning it was like waking up in a dream! I walked outside and was breathtaking. For reals. It was amazing. This is where we stayed. After a whirlwind couple of days, we decided to relax at the pool on our first day. Truly, the best choice ever. If there’s any advice I would give anyone about traveling to Europe (or anywhere!), it’s that you have to build in rest days. Multiple days. We didn’t have enough rest days and it was definitely hard on us.
The next day, we took a day trip to Florence! This day started out pretty rough. We were told to take a train into Florence, instead of driving into the city. Perfect. We were savvy travelers at this point, and didn’t think to always have cash on us. So, we got to the train station (after incredibly windy roads, getting a little lost, and looking for parking) and found out we could only purchase tickets with cash. Two problems here. 1. We didn’t have cash and no one could direct us to an exact location that could help us get cash. 2. We had a scheduled appointment at 10am to climb the Duomo. And we were most certainly going to miss that.
Eventually, my dad and husband were able to find a bank that agreed to give them cash (and hour later) and we were finally headed into the city. By the time we reached the Duomo (in complete awe and wonder), we were two hours late to our appointment.
We prayed. We put Knox in my arm. And I begged the guard to still let us go.
It worked. Praise the Lord, because this was one of the highlights of the trip for me. It was definitely challenging, but totally worth it. And I say that after climbing up all 463 steps with a baby crying and unhappy, sitting at the top trying to nurse and comfort and upset baby, and then climbing back down with the baby on my chest; crying. And it was still worth it.
Absolutely stunning views.
The remainder of our time in Florence was spent getting lunch, going to see The David, eating gelato, walking to Ponte Vecchio, and meandering through the streets.
Would I have loved to have spent more time in Florence? Definitely. But, at this point in the trip, we had to start making decisions about where our time was best spent.
We needed a rest day before we would head to our next location.
So, the next day was spent at our place in Chianti, relaxing by the pool, letting Knox climb and crawl and play. We had been asking so much of him up until the point. So, making sure we had some days where he could play and wasn’t required to be held or pushed in the stroller so much, was important.
Next up, Cinque Terre.
We would spend a slow morning in Chianti (Tuscany) and then pack up and make the trip to Cinque Terre. Hindsight is always 20/20. So, we probably should have chosen a different mode of transportation to get there, but we did what we thought we were supposed to do. Most travel books and hotels tell you not to drive into CT, that you should take trains.
So, what this meant was that we had to drive our rental car to Florence, drop it off, get on a bus (with ALL the luggage) to go to the Airport, then get on another bus to go to the train station. Then get on a train, transfer in Pisa, go the La Spezia, then get on one more train that would take us to our town in CT. Phew. It was exhausting. But! 8 hours later, we made it! And it was just as breathtaking as I thought it would be. Walking out of the train station and seeing the beach was amazing.
Since we arrived around 7pm, the plan for the remainder of the day was to get dinner, walk through the streets, and rest up for a big day the next day.
If you are unfamiliar with CT, it is five tiny little because towns right next to each other on the coast of Italy. They are connected by trails and trains, so you can hike from one town to the next. Our plan was to hike from Monterosso (the town we were staying in) to Vernazza, the town just south of us. But, after talking to many locals and other hikers, they suggested it wasn’t the best choice to do with a baby. Since we had no one of knowing for ourselves, we listened to them and didn’t hike. I am a little bummed that we didn’t have that opportunity, but I guess we will just have to go back!
What we decided to do instead (since we only had one full day in CT--not enough time) was take a ferry from Monterosso to Porto Venere (south of CT), and then take the trains back through all the towns and stop to explore each one. So, we spent the entire day just touring and walking through all the towns. This map (see below) will show you the five towns. Jut south of Riomaggiore is where Porto Venere is. The views and cities were absolutely stunning. This was probably my favorite day of the entire trip. We got to see so much and the views and experiences were simply spectacular.
The next day (our final full day!) was going to be partly spent in CT, but we had to travel back to Rome to catch our 6am flight the next day!
So, we had breakfast, packed, and spent the morning walking through the streets in Monterosso, getting lunch, and I made a quick jump in the ocean! After that, it was time to catch the trains back to Rome.
I cried three times this day.
I was not ready to leave. Italy has stolen my heart and it was spectacular.
Stay tuned for my blog post about traveling with a baby where I will share more tips about how to manage it all!