Inspired by TripAdvisor horror stories of long lines and scorching heat we chose to split our trip to the Vatican City into two days. The first day we hit only the museum and the second day we focused on St. Peterâ€™s and seeing the Pope. We hemmed and hawed over whether to take a prearranged tour of both in a three hour span but that seemed a bit too rushed and we had, after all, enough time in Rome that we didnâ€™t need to rush. We rented audio guides and bought our tickets in advance â€“ an absolute must we learned after standing in line for hours to see the David in Florence. Buying tickets ahead of time meant we waited approximately two minutes in the queue to get audio guides. We walked right past hundreds of people waiting to buy tickets. However, our journey was not without its own tribulations as Google maps lead us astray from the metro station to the entrance of the Vatican City. Once inside we had another 20 minute walk to the doors for the museum. The whole of St. Peterâ€™s square is rather confusing as there are no maps anywhere indicating where one must go to get to the museum.
Rome was epic. I have no other way to write a good intro for this post. Rome knocked our socks off – with amazing art, history and enough churches to satisfy even the most devout Catholic. We have been to 17 countries and to Italy on two other occasions but if you asked me to recommend one place to visit I would say Rome. I’m not sure if Brian feels the same but he certainly looked happy looking out over the vastness of the Colosseum.
The statue of David was the driving force behind our visit to Florence. Â After a delicious breakfast (courtesy of my lovely husband) we all piled into the cars for a road trip. Â Brian and I chose to follow the Rhoads’ in our little smart car and I must say, following Randy made the driving experience much more enjoyable than our solo attempt at navigation. Â Our first stop in Florence was a gelato stand, I had mento and Brian had fragola (strawberry). Â Once we had some sugar in our blood we bounded along the cobbled streets for a few kilometers taking in the new city.
On Monday we decided to check out Pisa and Cinque Terre – both of which are UNESCO World Heritage sights. Â In Pisa we were going to see, you guessed it, the leaning tower of Pisa. Â Cinque Terre is a series of towns that are nestled into the ridged mountains along the Mediterranean coast in western Italy.
Our adventure in Florence started with a flight from Vienna to Florence, with a not quite-so-great landing, but I guess any landing you can walk away from is a good one. Â After squeezing on a shuttle bus with very obnoxious Americans (not us) and their oversized luggage (again, not us) we picked up our smart car.
We spent 5 full minutes trying to figure out how to open the trunk only to discover that there wasn’t much of a trunk… Bonnie and I just looked at each other and simultaneously said something about being glad we only had backpacks because even those were hard to squish in. Â I’m surprised I fit in the car, but it was comfortable. Â So, off we went on our first driving adventure in Europe, through the countryside of northern Italy. Â We were confident in our printed Google directions, so when the attendant at the rental office asked if we wanted a GPS, we said “no, thanks”. Â I had my iPhone, and had purchased an EU travel Internet package on the train in Austria.