Rome was amazing! It was a great city to start our Italian adventure. We headed to Europcar and picked up our cute European VW Golf. It was a stick too. Nick had not driven a stick in how long? High school. 10 years. But he assured me is was just like riding a bike - you don't forget. Driving wasn't too bad. We made it out of Rome without difficulty and eventually on to the Autostrada. Europeans drive just a little different than us. Fast and tailgate is the best way to describe it - you better get out of their way.
Our cute little car - apparently it's a "status" car. Our bike guide said once you have a VW Golf - Italians know you have "arrived"...Interesting?!
We made it to Florence in a couple of hours - piece of cake. Once we made into Florence that was a whole other story. Just a little bit difficult - we had no idea where we were going in the city. You can imagine all those small streets and different plazas. Helpful hint and a nice reminder for us next time - GPS is your friend. Get it. Even if it costs a little more...it's worth it! I eventually ran into some hotel to get a map of Florence which helped us tremendously in finding our hotel. We were pretty tired from the drive so we found a nice pizzeria and relaxed at the hotel. Our next day was pretty big...we needed our energy. Bike ride through Tuscany!
I'm just going to say it right at the beginning. The bike ride kicked my ass! Excuse my language but that's pretty much what it did. I will be the first one to admit it. Nick did great job but he rides for fun and loves it. I, however, had not been on a bike since I was 13! And it wasn't like we were riding on flat paved roads the whole time - - it was Tuscan hills and they are steep! I'm not trying to make excuses but it was hard. I did make it though and the reward was GREAT! We stopped at an amazing castle that had beautiful views of the Tuscan hills. Just amazing. Tasted a little wine and then our guide, Elizabeth, took us to this tiny restaurant at the top of the hill. We sat on the patio with the views of the vineyards, olive trees, and beautiful villas in the background. It was so incredibly peaceful. Definitely could be a vacation home spot. We would need millions of euros! We can dream though. Bike ride = success (even though it about killed me!)
This is of a map of the area we were in. We started in Gaiole and then went to Brolio (castle with the wine) and then up to Castagnoli (the restaurant at the top of the hill).
View from the castle - AMAZING!
Picture of the castle - the gray brick is from the 1100-1200's and the red brick is from the 1800's...pretty old. Generations and generations of the same family have lived there and are currently still living there.
Nick and I at the end of our bike ride - we deserved some ice cream!
The next day was spent around Florence seeing the typical sites. We went to the Duomo and climbed the clock tower. It had a wonderful view of Florence. We worked for that view though. The climb included 416 steps. Very steep steps! It was quite the workout. We were really, really high up. Nick stood up there for about 5 minutes + one picture and decided that was all he needed. No heights for him! We also visited the Uffizi Gallery - some amazing artwork in that museum and David! There wouldn't be a visit to Florence without a stop at Ponte Vecchio. Cute little bridge and we had no idea the inside was full of jewelry shops. Tons of jewelry. Some of the pieces were quite beautiful but way out of our price range. It was a full day of sightseeing and we ended it with a very tasty meal at this lovely Italian place. Glass of wine, a good meal, great company. Perfect way to end the day!
The Duomo and the clock tower in the background
At the top of the Clock Tower
On the Ponte Vecchio
Our last day in Florence was actually spent in some of the outlying cities. We drove to Vinci, Italy because Nick (and I but mostly Nick) wanted to see the Leonardo de Vinci museum. He was quite the inventor and my husband loves that kind of stuff. The drive was really easy - no getting lost! The town on Vinci it really cute and quaint. Not a lot of tourist in the area so you got the feel for the day to day life of the Italians. The museum was actually really neat. We were able to see a lot of his inventions (unfortunately no pictures allowed) and how they were created. Definitely a smart man - way ahead of his time.
Picture of where the museum was held
From the top of the Leonardo di Vinci Museum
Next we headed to the Italian Riveria - Cinque Terre. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L! Loved it! It took us a little while to get out there. We had a few missed turns but eventually we made it and it was so worth it! We stopped in a town called Riggamore. We had a quick bite to eat and then started our walk on Via dell' Amore (i.e. The Walk of Love) - how romantic! And it was romantic! The walk had some of the most picturesque views! We only had a couple of hours to spend there...we only walked from Riggamore to Manarola. We would have loved to continue to the walk but we just didn't have time. The views were amazing - the colorful houses, crystal clear water, fishing boats, the locals. Everything was beautiful. Would love to go back there and spend some more time!
At the start of Via dell' Amore - - the locks that are all along the walkway symbolize "locking your love in forever."
One of the amazing views we saw!
Nick and I on the Walk of Love
We saw a lot in Florence including the Italian Riviera and the Tuscan hills. Florence was great but I think the key is getting out of the main city and seeing the smaller, outlying cities. It really is a slower pace and quite peaceful.
Next stop - Verona! The city of LOVE and the opera! We make a stop at the Ferrari Museum beforehand...Nick is going to be like a kid in a candy store!
Until next time....
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