So, I’m back here on Sipping Espresso… blogging. Weird. I’m in America. I’m blogging aboutItalyfromAmerica. Can I do that?! Is that even allowed?! Well, I promised you in my Final Blog Post From Italy that I would finish our tale of overseas adventure and intrigue (OK, OK – more like overseas adventure of gluttony and transparency), so I suppose that I’ll have to make good on my word. For those of you that are sick of hearing about these adventures… I’m sorry, but I’m OCD and I am not much good at leaving things unfinished.
So, let’s flash back; way, way back to this past spring when Jen’s sister came to visit. Just as they departed for Venice and Rome, we took our own leave from Como and headed toward the metropolitan city of Trieste. When I think about what brought us to Trieste, I finally understand the word bittersweet. We undertook the four-hour road trip to Italy’s easternmost city so that I could run in the Maratonina d’Europa (Europe’s Half Marathon). Despite having to add the somewhat embarrassing “ina” suffix to the end of Maratona (changing the meaning to “very little”), completing my first half-marathon was a very “sweet” accomplishment for me. However, the impetus behind the race was a very “bitter” one. Jen and I had started listing all the things that we wanted to do before our time in Italy came to an end. This particular road trip checked many of our boxes; competing in a race in Europe, a visit to the city of Trieste, time in the region of Friuli–Venezia Giulia, capped off with a visit to Slovenia (upcoming post). Now, that checked a lot of boxes, so careful planning began and hotels rooms were booked.
Here’s how I would sum up Trieste – it is a MUST-SEE city. Sometimes I find myself guilty of trying to label a city by comparing it to another city. “Rome is like New York, but much older and without the high-rises”. Sometimes, you’ve just got to stop and appreciate where you are for what it is. Don’t try to “label” the place or put it in a box; its easy to fall into that trap with Trieste. A city that has bounced back and forth between Slovenian, Austrian and Italian rule leaves us with a place today that is proud of its blend in architecture and attitude. Trieste is a city not at all confused about its confusing identity. With a rich mix of Slavic, Germanic and Latin influences – I am simply content to label this magical place as one of the most “European” cities I have ever visited. Continue reading Trieste… Italy’s Most “European” City→
If you read the title of this post with your best impression of an Italian accent, then you probably nailed the pronunciation of one of our new favorite Italian towns. Lucca has been on our bucket list to visit for quite some time and now we can happily say we’ve been.
The city is renowned for many things, not the least of which is the giant annual gathering of comic book nerds and fantasy film geeks. Lucca plays host to Europe’s version of Comic-Con, the Fiera Internazionale del Fumetto (International Festival of Comics) or as it’s commonly referred – Lucca Comics and Games.
If you read about our recent trip to Venice (HERE), then you’ll know that we finally unlocked the key to really enjoying Venice. In a nutshell, it involves beating the other tourists to the finish line. If the “finish line” is a guided tour in Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), then be the first person in line in the morning. If the finish line is grabbing a moment of solace in an empty Piazza San Marco, then you’d better be there as the sun rises (conversely, you can arrive well after the sun has set and listen to the beautiful music of the dueling bands). Or, more simply, you can do what we did; visit this magical city in the off-season and get to know the city of Venezia (Venice) without having to put up a fight.
If you’re blessed with a couple of days in Venice, I would suggest that you go a bit deeper than the surface level attractions. Skip the gondola ride (it’s overpriced anyhow) and instead tour the neighboring islands. With 117 to chose from, you’ll have your pick. You can visit the Jewish Ghetto on the island of Cannaregio. Many of the beautiful parks and gardens on the island of Lido are free of charge to you botany lovers. Or, for the real adventurers, you could opt to wade into the marshes and cast nets with local fishermen near the island of Chioggia.
We knew that we wanted to visit the island Murano and watch how the world-famous Venetian glass was blown. This would require a little preparation and so I enlisted the assistance of a guided tour. I discovered a wonderful website that offers local tours at very reasonable prices – Viator. Travel bugs, take note of that website! It is a great resource for sight-seeing tours in cities all over the world. We will definitely use them again; my only regret was not discovering the website sooner. When searching for a tour of Murano, we found a better option – a tour that also included the islands of Burano and Torcello. You can find the link to our specific tour HERE. I bought my tickets ($28 pp) and had the confirmation sent to my smart phone. I showed up at the designated area, presented the pass on my phone and received our tickets to the boat. Easy, breezy, lemon-squeezy. Continue reading Murano, Burano & Torcello – The Keys To Unlocking Venice→
Have you ever wanted to sound like the world’s biggest a-hole and alienate multiple friends, all in one fell swoop? If so, pay close attention and do exactly as I say. Kind of roll your eyes a little bit in an exaggerated act of annoyance and say the following words with the smug impatience of someone who thinks they’re as classy as Ivanka Trump (but really only has as much class as her father, ‘The’ Donald). Repeat after me:
“Ugh. We have to go to Venice… again?! Bleeeehh.”
Do that, and you are sure to land on the top of most people’s sh*t list! At the risk of losing blog readers, friends and maybe even a few family members… that is exactly how we felt recently when we went back to Venice. I can fully appreciate this is a ridiculous thought to have and even more obnoxious to share… but hey, this is a blog that delivers brutal honesty. When we booked our cruise with Celebrity Cruises a little while back, we did it despite the fact that the ship spent two days at port in Venice. Don’t get me wrong, Venice is a beautiful city with a unique charm found nowhere else in the world. If you’ve visited Venice before, you may reminisce about the romantic gondola rides, the charming cafes and the stunning churches. But when you’ve faced with a visit to Venice for the fifth time, you are more likely reminded of the crowded piazzas, overprices restaurants and long lines full of pushy tourists.
Venezia (Venice) has an alluring history that I find to be more fascinating than nearly any other city in the world. I mean, the entire city has been floating on water for centuries, for Pete-sake! I detail a brief explanation of how Venice came to be in this blog post (definitely worth a quick read).
Even though we weren’t very excited at the prospect of squaring off against millions of other tourists in a space not much larger than the Mall of America, we abandoned our original plans to stay on the ship and instead ventured onto Venice’s shores. We were sure glad that we did! Over the next two days we rediscovered a new Venice; one with more magic and charm than we ever realized was possible. What’s the difference, you ask? We were walking around in the off-season. Continue reading Venice, Italy – Alfred Hitchcock’s Inspiration→
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned three centuries and gave us some of the world’s most precious treasures. It changed the way people thought, it altered politics and it had an impact on art and architecture that lasts to this day. The exciting changes in art and philosophy reached across Europe and quite literally brought people out of the Dark Ages and into the light of a new era. There is little debate about the birthplace of the Renaissance; nearly all scholars will agree that it is Florence, Italy. Because of the city’s important impact on the world as we know it, as well as it’s own unique beauty – Florence is a city that everyone should see in their lifetime. If those are not compelling enough reasons, Florence is in Tuscany – one of Italy’s most beautiful regions.
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore – the famous Duomo of Florence
I suppose that I’ve sufficiently succeeded in being completely cheesy and unoriginal, using the two most obvious cliche’s to name my two posts about Rome (first post). Oh well, this is what you can expect from me when I’m faced with the monumental task of bringing you up to speed on our many recent adventures. So, let’s begin!
When I last left you, we had seen the Pope’s home (Vatican City), a bunch of steps (Spanish Steps) and a some running water (Trevi Fountain). The next day, we wanted to see a pile of stones (Colosseum) and a big dome (Pantheon). And if anyone ever describes some of the world’s most precious treasures like that again, smack them! Continue reading When In Rome…→
If all roads lead to Rome, nowadays you could also say that all European cruises start from Rome. Well, maybe not all – but a good many of the cruise ships use this port of call as a starting point for their Mediterranean voyages. At least, this was the case on our cruise aboard Celebrity Cruise Lines ship, Silhouette. The Silhouette is one of five ships in their newest Solstice Class – a group of sleek, modern ships with a heavy emphasis on style and dining. The ship and the cruise did not disappoint. We had many ports of call and a lot of wonderful activities that I’d like to write about, so let’s start at the beginning… Continue reading All Roads Lead To Rome→
We recently had the most amazing vacation aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam and I have had a wonderful time writing about it. I have discovered even more about each destination as I’ve researched them further and I have had the pleasure of reliving it all over again as I post the pictures. I hope that you’ve enjoyed your time aboard with us. Sadly, I will close this chapter of our overseas adventure and move onto the next story in an upcoming post. There is still plenty more to come in the blog pipeline…
“Dad, wrap this up already – you’re putting us all to sleep!”
If you joined us thus far, you’ll know we visited Venice, Olympia and Athens in our first post and then Istanbul and Lesbos in the second post. The final leg of our cruise transports us to Kuşadası, Santorini and Argostoli. As always, we’ll include some of our shipboard life and hopefully you’ll be able to stick with me – I’ve got a ton of pictures in this final post. Continue reading Our Final Days at Sea→
Admit it… you sang the title in your head, complete with the voice raising on the “and-a I”…
I love to cruise. Jen loves to cruise. And now… Julia absolutely loves to cruise. We have very few experiences aboard cruise ships, but each time we’ve been on one of these massive floating hotels (or mini-floating city’s… I couldn’t choose between adjectives – you pick your favorite), we feel like royalty. We know that we will chose this method of vacation many more times in our lives. Cruising requires little planning and you are always rewarded with the very best customer service, the opportunity to see many more cities than you normally could in a given time period, endless activities aboard the ship, wonderful food, the benefit of unpacking only once and perhaps best of all – a very affordable vacation (you can get very good deals if you hawk the last-minute deal sites).
Our ship – Holland America’s MS Nieuw Amsterdam
The first time that Jen and I took a cruise was on our honeymoon. We spent three weeks sailing around South America (from Buenos Aires, Argentina all the way around Cape Horn and on to Santiago, Chile). I chose Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for our first cruise, primarily because the itinerary was perfect and I found it to be reasonably priced. I wasn’t nearly the internet-nerd I am today and so I did little research beyond that. We had a wonderful vacation, ate way too much food, enjoyed some lovely scenery (I have thousands of pictures to prove it) and had an absolute blast. However, I had no idea how amazing cruising could really be until we recently boarded Holland America’s, MS Nieuw Amsterdam (pronounced, n-e-w); one of the newer ships in their fleet.
There is a wonderful town along Lake Como, called Tremezzo. Most people have heard of Bellagio, which sits on the exact shore opposite Tremezzo, but the lesser known town is a true gem with far fewer tourists crowding the streets. Tremezzo is home to a couple of our favorite restaurants and gelaterie (ice cream parlors). It is also home to Villa Carlotta, a 17th century treasure that has been beautifully restored and maintained.
Jen and I have been wanting to visit Villa Carlotta since we moved to Como. The beauty of the villa and the gardens are well known in this area and attract thousands of visitors each year. We had planned on going in March when my aunt and uncle were visiting, but the villa is not open to the public until the 15th (just a few short days after they departed). Since the gardens are the main attraction, the preservation society wants to ensure all the flowers are in full bloom. Jen and I decided that since my mom is a big fan of gardens, we would visit while they were here (read about the first part of their trip HERE). Continue reading Villa Carlotta’s Beautiful Gardens→