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→
Jennifer, Julia and I had a wonderful time when my Uncle S and Aunt Deborah came to visit us this past March. That’s why we were thrilled when they mentioned that they would like to come back to Italy again this fall. They wanted to do a bit of traveling and invited us to join them on their adventures, using our condo in Como as a “home base”. They had sketched a rough itinerary and just wanted a little help filling in the blanks – assistance I was happy to give. They knew that they wanted to spend some time with us here in Como, some time in Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna (two regions adjacent to our region of Lombardia) as well as a quick jaunt down to the historically significant city of Pompeii and another to Venezia.
S and Deborah standing near the divide of Lake Como
Jen and I share the responsibility of planning our trips – researching restaurants, activities and hotels. But they’re usually in three or four day stints and one location at a time. This time, I had to navigate through a two week itinerary, complete with activities, restaurants, hotel stays and all at new locations each day. Putting the puzzle pieces of their trip together was a challenge not for the faint of heart. Jen and I dug in, and by the time S and Deb landed in Milan, we had an itinerary that we were both proud of. I think all of us agreed that it came together quite nicely. Of course, the key ingredient was the company, mixed with a little food and wine! Continue reading Our Second Love – A Bunch of Old Grapes→
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.
One of the true gems of the world…. Venezia (Venice). The name alone evokes powerful feelings for many people. Romantic gondola rides, historical architectural treasures, beautiful creations blown from Murano glass, unique hand-crafted masks and always… always a city constructed with streets of water. Amazingly, the entirecity is listed as a World Heritage Site in order to preserve it’s unique beauty. According to my Wiki research, Luigi Barzini described it in the New York Times as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”. I’d have to agree with Luigi!
Panoramic view from the roof of our hotel
Venice from the water
The Grand Canal
More of the Grand Canal
Happy to be here
Our good friends Nathan and Danielle joined us recently for a whirlwind visit filled with food, wine and lots of fun (read about it HERE). We punctuated their trip with a stopover in this romantic city. I was intrigued by the history of such a unique place and just did a little research. Venice consists of 117 islands, formed by 177 canals and connected by 409 bridges. I kept waiting for that “ah-ha” moment when I discovered the name of the genius city planner that decided to create a magical city on the water. But unlike Bugsy Siegel’sLas Vegas or Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid’s reinvention of Dubai – there was no one person that can be credited with the conceptualization of Venice. The truth is that refugees fleeing from invasion of the Lombards sought shelter in the marshland that is now Venice. And how do any cities really get built? A collection of people working together to establish trade and industry, creating habitation and then services to support the population. And so the city grew around the marsh and homes and churches and municipal buildings were constructed. This begs another question. How can you build a city on water? Continue reading Someone Turn The Hose Off… These Streets Are Flooded!→
Well, we didn’t run into Edward Cullen, Bella Swan or that creepy little girl that can induce pain in people’s mind (I suppose the world’s largest and most powerful coven of vampires was in hiding) during our visit to Volterra in Tuscany.
Now this is Tuscany!
For the Tibetan monk that has been living in isolation in Bhutan… and my sister, the only two people in the world that haven’t a clue who Edward or Bella are – I am making a playful reference to the Twilight Series. Buddhist monk and Michelle, listen up – the premise of the fictional story is simple. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy happens to be a blood-sucking vampire. Girl also falls in love with another boy. Boy happens to be a shape-shifting werewolf. Love triangle ensues. They all get in trouble when the Volturi (fictional Vampire royalty from the non-fictional town of Volterra, Italy) get involved. Giant battle rages. Extend story over five books. Produce six movies and collect hundreds of millions of non-fictional dollars. You know – your classic love story. Continue reading Edward and Bella – We’re Here!→
Facebook is great for a lot of things. First of all, it’s a wonderful time killer. It is a spectacular medium for sharing funny videos about cats. The site is also great for shameless self-promotion of your unimportant blog (ahem). Facebook keeps me and Jen apprised of popular youtube videos and trending pop-culture stories we would have otherwise missed living in another country. But perhaps best of all – it helps reconnect people after many, many years.
Two posts about the Dolomites and now four posts about Austria… will the posts about this road trip ever end?! I promise, I’ll wrap it up here… I think I’m spending as much time writing as I did enjoying the trip!
An unfortunate haze covers a beautiful city
You may have gathered (HERE) that we instantly fell in love with Salzburg and extended our trip by an extra day/night to see more. We started day one with a visit to a castle, Hohenwerfen Fortress and so I thought starting our second day with a visit to it’s sister castle, Festung Hohensalzburg would be appropriate. Continue reading How Do You Say, "The End" in German?→