Y’all. It’s been a summer, albeit a short one (thanks, school board for shaving off nearly a month of it). We started with Bear’s graduation and threw an epic graduation party at the house. That one was so big, I called in reinforcements, and had it catered. I usually can handle the big parties, but sometimes, I want to enjoy them too, rather than maintain food and logistics for over 50 guests. So, cheater, cheater pumpkin-eater, I guess. No shame in that game.
Next, the husband and I were supposed to jet off to St. Lucia for out 20th anniversary, but thanks to American Airlines cancelling our flight as we were checking our luggage, that’s pushed back until next year. Air travel is the fifth circle of hell this year, I swear.
Finally, we departed on our epic Italian adventure that was over a year in the making. Thanks to my handy-dandy travel maven, we settled on a plan that really was seamless from start to finish. She recommended the Private Tour offered by Adventures by Disney, which included our private guides in each city, all transportation, and unique activities…oh and excellent hotels. Basically, they handled everything, including tickets to venues, scheduling access times, and even put us on/off the trains so there was no way to mess up getting around. Overall, I highly recommend. They also offer a group option, but that’s not really our cup of tea.
First stop: ROME!
After the rest day at the hotel (which wasn’t really a rest day, because I drug everyone to the Cappuccini Museum and Crypts on a whim), we ventured on a tour of St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museum.
The pictures do not do the Basilica justice whatsoever. The interior is larger (2 football fields plus) and more magnificent than you can ever imagine. I could have spent several hours inside, because there is so much to take in at every angle. Side note, I did not get pictures inside of the Sistine Chapel, because they are forbidden, but it was breathtaking as well. Photos are allowed in some areas but not all.
During our tour, our guide Simone mentioned that you can actually climb to the top of the dome to the overlook, but it’s oh, a ba-gillion stairs. Hearing a challenge and the potential for bragging rights, the Heathens demanded we take on this endeavor…in the 100-degree heat.
This isn’t even the halfway point. Those stairs lead you into the real deal. It was small, cramped, hot, and I had to use my rescue inhaler, but we made it.
Totes worth it, as they say. The Vatican Museum section of our tour was like walking through history, and though we did have access to some areas not open to the public, we still didn’t see it all. Our guide said that if you only spent 2-3 seconds looking at each piece in the museum, it would take you more than two weeks to see everything.
As we wrapped up, we did pick up several items and gifts, which were sent to the Vatican offices to be blessed and delivered to our hotel.
After a much-needed lunch break, cocktail, and gelato, we toured the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and our tour guide added in some scenic stops, with a coffee granita grab for the adults.
The next day, we our guide gave us a tour of the Coliseum before we boarded the train to Florence.
Once we arrived in Florence and made it to the awesome hotel, we had a private tour of the Pallazzo Vecchio, including the secret passages.
That night, we discovered that our hotel had a bar and terrace with the best views in the city and really good cocktails.
The next day, we visited the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David, then the Uffizi Gallery to see incredible Renaissance artwork.
Then we basically walked all over Florence to see the sights.
Our guide, Leonardo (no joke), made sure we didn’t miss anything, and we fell in love with the city. We will definitely be back.
The next day, our driver took us through the Tuscan countryside to Fattoria Poggio Alloro farm, where we learned how to make fresh pasta, toured the farm, then had a delicious lunch and wine tasting. We ended up shipping two cases of various wines back to the U.S. while we were there. I loved everything about this day, and it gave the Heathens a little break from the very museum-heavy aspects of the itinerary. This was Bean’s favorite part of the trip, with the exception of our guide in Rome who she loved.
That afternoon, we made a quick stop to the San Gimignano for snacks and cocktails.
The next morning, we boarded the train to Venice, and hit the ground running with a tour of Piazza San Marco and the Doges Palace.
The next day, we received private mask-making lessons at a tiny local studio, which ended up being way more fun than I expected. The husband and Heathens really got into it, and our guide brought us some Buranelli cookies to try while we worked. We learned about Venetian traditions and the artists were incredibly kind.
Afterward, we took a gondola ride, which I do not recommend. There are so many of them that you basically sit in a traffic jam of bumping gondolas. We enjoyed the hotel ferry more than that, so I’d say skip it unless your heart is set on it. Another rooftop bar of cocktails later, and we were packing it up to come home.
While that is the bare bones of our tip (because I could write a book), it covers the highlights. We made it home safely and full of memories, though United did lose all of our luggage and even sent one bag to a different state, never to be heard from again…until a friend had to pick up and drive it back to Louisiana while on business.
Overall, this vacation exceeded our expectations. I think our only regret is not building in a rest day mid-trip, because every day was a packed itinerary and I wish I had more wandering time.
Now, it’s back to school and the hell that is carpool. I’m already dreaming about our next trip and counting the days till fall.