June 9 – 25, 2017
For those of you who don’t know, my sister and her family currently reside in Spain. It’s been a pretty big adjustment…finding time to talk to them (her, my brother in law, and my niece), sending gifts for big events (birthdays, anniversaries, etc), and just in general. The good thing about it is that we have somewhere “inexpensive” to stay whenever we go visit!
My parents and I finally took the plunge and went to visit. It was the perfect time to do so. We all had enough time and money saved up, and it was the end of the school year for my mom (who can’t quite take two weeks off in the middle of the school year). With that being said, here’s a little recap, with as many specifics as I can remember.
Day 1: Friday, June 9th
Unrelated to the trip (kind of), I had to drop Olivia off for her vacation. I used Rover.com (which recently combined with DogVacay) to find a sitter near my parents. I cannot recommend the service enough. You can talk to the different sitters before booking. There are pictures of their home and preferences and everything. I had a pretty severe complex about doing this. What if Olivia thought that I abandoned her like everyone else in her life? The drop off was a bit rough with the dogs getting used to each other, but the service overall was lovely.
We had a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Rome. We left about 6:45pm ET and landed around 19:30am Italy time. The flight was absolutely lovely. When we touched down in Rome, I could barely tell that the wheels touched down.
Day 2: Saturday, June 10th
Elayne & Ellie were meeting us in Rome. Their flight got in a couple of hours after ours, but it took us some time to get through customs and such. I got my passport stamped for the first time! Elayne snuck up behind us too. We were waiting by the carousel where her luggage would be, and she somehow walked up behind us! I’ve never seen my mom so happy and excited.
Let’s be real though. We were all really excited to see them. We’ve had nothing but Skype calls since December. How did people live without technology?!
After a cab ride into the city, we arrived at our Air BnB. It was a lovely little one bedroom apartment. The owner was there when we arrived to give the rundown of the place. Have you ever tried to explain something to someone who hasn’t slept in over 24 hours? Thank goodness Elayne didn’t have any time zone adjustment. There were 4 different keys to get into the building/apartment. Also, Romans take their recycling VERY seriously. There were a lot of very explicit instructions as to how we should recycle everything. God bless that woman for being so organized.
We had a bit more time than we were anticipating for that first evening, so we wandered for some beer (myself and Elayne) and gelato (my parents). Following that, the Piazza Navona, Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain.
Also, there’s this awesome filter on the camera that I was using. It’s called “Dramatic”, so the majority of the trip looks far more epic than it actually was.
Dinner that evening was at this little restaurant my grandparents went to (originally) in the 60s. They have the menu hanging in their house. It was called Da Meo Patacca. It has this large outdoor area, and there was even an Italian mariachi band (for lack of any better term). They played “Georgia On My Mind” once they heard where we were from.
Day 3: June 11th
Y’all. We got blessed by the Pope! What a beautiful thing it was to be blessed by Pope Francis. I’m sure that what he was saying was absolutely lovely and inspiring. I wish I spoke fluent Italian.
That was a very hot morning, so we went back “home” to cool down (and take a nap for those of us who were jetlagged). For the afternoon, we had a tour scheduled. The Colosseum, Palentine Hill, & Roman Forum. I was personally really excited for the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. The history there is just so rich.
Now, it was a million degrees, and we had a one year old with us, so we tapped out of the guided tour early. I didn’t get to see the Roman Forum. We were, however, able to take our time wandering to dinner, where the lasagna was well renowned.
Day 4: June 12th
Ahh, The Vatican. Elayne signed us up for the “Pristine Sistine” tour. We were up at the crack of dawn, and still had to stand in line to get in. Or tour guide also ran through the first part. We were very confused. However, it all made sense once we got to the Sistine Chapel. There weren’t quite thousands of people in there, so we were really able to take in the full beauty of it. They don’t let you take pictures there. There are guards who will yell “NO PHOTOS!” if they even see a phone or camera come out. You could spend days there, and still not see it all. That’s where they elect the Pope too. We asked about the process of sending the smoke and everything. It was truly humbling. One of those places where you’re just in awe from walking in.
There was a lot of art and a lot of history in the Vatican. Each pope was a collector, so it was interesting to see the different trends in their collections. There was also this section of modern art that definitely did not look like it fit with everything else at all. We had to fight through the Sistine Chapel again at the end of the tour to get out and into St. Peter’s Basilica. Thank goodness we went early in the day. I would have had more pictures of the tour, but there were just so many people. You were just being shuffled from place to place.
Now, St. Peter’s was equally as breathtaking. The Pieta is one of the first things on the right side when you walk in the door. The crowd was largest there. Due to people, there’s now a glass barrier between the statue and the people. There’s just art everywhere. Toward the ceiling, the letters are close to 20 feet high. Columns are so high that there’s space for TWO busts.
I had the opportunity to rub St. Peter’s toe. They say that it will bring you luck. Fingers crossed! There are also preserved popes there. That was interesting. My mom kept asking if they were made of wax. One of my favorite things was seeing John Paul II’s tomb. Once he was canonized, his tomb was moved up from the crypts into the Basilica.
I guess we were feeling super motivated after being in the Catholic holy land. We opted to walk to the Spanish Steps, and then on to dinner. In my sister’s words, we had about an hour and a half to stroll in that direction. Happily enough, our stroll led us down the Roman fashion district. My fashion heart was so happy. Upon arriving at the Spanish steps, my sister informed us that we had strolled too leisurely, and had 25 minutes to make it to dinner 30 minutes away.
Apparently we were STILL motivated after dinner, so my sister, dad and I went to the Trevi for some night photos. They’re both really into photography, and I was just along for the ride.
Day 5: June 13th
This was a travel day. We packed up, said goodbye to our lovely host, and headed for the train station. Europe does this funny thing where they don’t post platform numbers until about 15 minutes before your train is scheduled to leave. My parents didn’t take too well to that. We made it in PLENTY of time. It was apparently a fast train. Kind of disorienting riding backward at that speed. However, they had BLOOD ORANGE JUICE. I need to find where I can get this in my life. However, we all took turns trying the juice, and Ellie took the liberty of dumping a coffee all over everything. It was a MESS. We were ‘that’ family on the train.
The taxi line when we arrived in Florence was pretty long. Due to the traffic, it would have taken an equal amount of time to walk as it would to drive to our next Air BnB. However, we had far too much stuff, so we waited in the line. The place we were staying is owned by two sisters who have a plant nursery on the property. It was absolutely gorgeous! We had the full unit to ourselves. First on the agenda was getting some food. Elayne and Aaron visited Florence on their honeymoon, so they already had some favorite spots. Aaron’s arrival was about an hour later than ours, so we ate without him. Gusta Pizza was delicious. We walked for some gelato, and then Aaron arrived! Finally, the whole family was together.
Our first afternoon/evening was very relaxing. We just walked around Florence, hit some of the major spots, and then went to dinner. Have I mentioned that restaurants don’t open until at least 7pm for dinner?
Day 6: June 14th
Elayne built some time into our schedule to have a leisurely “breakfast”, and then walk around the local Italian market. It was a bit too much time, so we found ourselves trying to fill in some blank time and wandering. In our peaceful wanderings, we realized we needed lunch before our afternoon tour. As was becoming a repeatable story in #powellstakeeurope, we scarfed down some lunch and ran to our tour.
I’m not sure what the tour was officially called, but it was a trip to the Duomo, Michaelangelo’s David, and the sculpture garden. I would say that it probably could have been a shorter tour had our guide not given us a “My favorite gelato” detour.
I don’t particularly care for art. I can respect its beauty and the effort that goes into it, but don’t take me to an art museum. However, David was remarkable. It was definitely larger than I was anticipating. Did you know that there are three of them in Florence? The original in the museum, another by the sculpture garden, and the last one at the Piazzle de Michelangelo. We saw all three.
il Duomo was one of the most remarkable churches I’ve ever seen. The outside is ornate with incredible color and design. By comparison, the inside is fairly “simple”.
That evening, we went to a very hot restaurant with very poor service. However, I tried boar sauce, and it was amazing.
Day 7: June 15th
A full day tour of Tuscany. I imagined us stuffed on a bus, being dragged around from spot to spot. It was the opposite of that. We had a lovely guide, and shared the day with one family. They were on a month-long trip around Europe, visiting from Australia. They were so kind! Each family had their own van. The day started at the Piazzale de Michelangelo, with amazing views of Florence. From there, we moved on to Siena. This involved a visit to a lovely church, with the written Gregorian Chants inside. After Siena, we moved on to Chianti where we had lunch at a LOVELY winery and tasted an assortment of wines. Again, private to our two families. Our last stop was San Gimignano. This was my dad’s favorite. We had some “free time” here to walk around shops and take pictures. I thought my dad was going to leave us and stay there forever.
I went to Italy with the mindset that I wanted a new set of rosary beads. When I didn’t find any at the Vatican, I was pretty discouraged. However, the church in Siena had a small gift shop, and I found the most beautiful set in my price range. It was meant to be! Then, I went a little purchase crazy. At the winery, I got a great rose and some olive oil. In San Gimignano, I found beautiful linens and pottery.
We had to find somewhere for dinner that evening. My sister had only scheduled gelato. What even is that?! After dinner, my parents hung out at the house to stay with the baby while Aaron, Elayne and I went around Florence at night. It was lovely! We ended up stumbling upon this incredible processional leaving the Duomo. We’re also bad Catholics for not knowing the significance of the processional.
Day 7: June 16th
Another travel day. This time, we wandered around Florence in the morning, and then took two awful cab rides to the airport. It was very stressful. I thought I had ruined my favorite shirt from Gusta Pizza grease of the meal we didn’t get to eat fresh. Also, apparently it’s a thing overseas to applaud your pilots. That, or this pilot was practicing his stand up routine. I didn’t speak enough Italian (AKA none) to understand what he was saying.
Day 8 – Day 16: June 17th – June 25th
We all needed some recovery time once we landed in Rota. Poor Aaron had to go back to work. We spent some days at the beach, one day wandering around Seville, and spending a TON of time with Ellie. Pro tip: When driving around a new city and following directions, ensure your directions are DRIVING directions. If not, you will be asked to go down one way streets and dead ends. Seville was a very stressful day.
Phew! What a trip! For my first time in Europe, I would say it was a success. I’m grateful for the time I got to spend with my family. For those of you who stuck around to read the end of this, God bless you. Chances are, you’re my family. I would recommend to everyone that you travel more.
What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?