Friday, July 4, 2014

April 16, 2014 – Home bound and recap – Italy

The next morning we woke up, finished our packing and found our private car downstairs. We had a female driver – she was pretty hot – take us to the airport. She drove like a demon. It was perfect.

She dropped us off and we checked in for our flights. We were lead to a bus to take us to the larger terminal. On the bus we met a couple from New Jersey and they were remarking how they really wanted a good chicken salad. They did not see chicken on the menu at any Italian restaurants. Once they said it, I realized they were correct! I had not had chicken in 16 days and it is a main staple in my "normal" diet.

I had TONS of pasta, cheese, and pizza. I really did not even miss the chicken until someone pointed it out to me. We did some shopping in the international terminal and then got behind a rowdy group of American high schoolers coming home from their Eurotrip. The stories we heard were pretty funny.

We boarded our plane. This time we had seats next to the window so we knew there would be no extra seats for us. I am 90% sure neither of us slept at all. It was a 10.5 hour flight, but we ended up landing in 9.5 hours in Atlanta.

We did the usual: go through customs, get our luggage, recheck it, and then headed to the gate. I found a few seats to lay on, plugged my phone in and called to chat with the fam.
This is the ONLY photo we have from that day. ha. (Such a difference from the thousands we took just the day before.)


We got on the next plane to Nola and arrived without any issues. Andrew and Ashley picked us up and we headed home to see the boys!

We got home, unpacked and told A+A about our trip. What a trip it was!

Fitbit Stats:
I walked 262,655 steps.

Climbed 636 stories – that is like climbing the height of the Empire State Building 6 times or climbing the Eiffel Tower 7 times.

Walked 108.54 miles.

My largest step day was in Venice at 22,671.

Favorite City: Venice! I did note expect to like Venice. I actually asked Doug if we could skip it when we were planning the trip. I am glad he said no! While it was my favorite, it is also the most frustrating for navigation. Make sure you have a GPS data plan on your phone. It is worth it. 2014-04-02-04-06-51_IMG_0416


While I am sad we got sick in Italy, I am SO glad it was while we were in Tuscany. That was the “relaxing” part of the trip anyway. Thank goodness we both recovered quickly.

  • I love Italian food! We only had few “Meh” meals. The Tuscan bread is TERRIBLE. Just awful. Salt-less waste of calories if you ask me. 2014-04-05-11-01-59_IMG_09332014-04-14-11-32-17_IMG_1900
  • I wish I loved public transportation, but I do love that we could make our own schedules and did not rely on the train (or Doug’s reading of train schedules. Smile)
  • I LOVE the Vatican. I could spend days in there praying and being with God. I love it’s beauty and holiness. It is my favorite church bar none. (Notre Dame is #2)2014-04-15-10-32-20_IMG_2077

  • I am no good in confined spaces packed with people where I feel trapped. This is a new fear and I dislike it.

  • I prefer never to fly internationally out of JFK. That place is a cluster. F that.
  • I absolutely, completely, seriously love my DB. He is the best husband in the world. He really made this trip wonderful.
  • I have fallen in love with the “winged lion” – Saint Mark’s symbol. I now see it everywhere. 2014-04-01-06-46-06_IMG_0269
  • Doug carried the backpack everywhere so I would not have to. It was heavy. It had our massive camera and wallets/passports at all times. He always takes it for the team. 2014-04-13-09-55-46_IMG_1743

  • I ordered gnocchi at almost every restaurant and I LOVED IT. I can’t get enough of it. 2014-04-12-22-46-23_IMG_1571
  • Doug at some sea roach things in Cinque Terre that were so scary. They were a mix between shrimp, crawfish and roaches. I have looked them up and they are mantis shrimp. ew6a012875c9d86f970c01348026a15a970c-500wi

  • Who knew fresh anchovies were delicious?!? They are! Eat them in Cinque Terre and you will have a new appreciation for anchovies!

  • My favorite souvenir is our new silver! I love that we each have our own sets and we use it everyday. We bought it at the Pampaloni store. Doug’s silverware is called the Due Sicilie (the ones on the right) and mine is called Agusta! IMG_2499

  • The best hotel room we had was the room in Florence! It had a bathtub!!! AND the location was perfect. Right in the middle of the city.

  • Favorite place to stay was in Tuscany at Fonte Bertusi! It was just fabulous. I want to stay there again. The breakfast was perfect, the grounds were amazing and the family that runs it is so Italian! We stayed in the Apartment II Viale. I loved it.
  • Biggest freakout: climbing the Domo Cupola in Florence. Doug made it up to the top. I did not. 2014-04-07-02-32-36_IMG_1030

  • Biggest dislike: the hike in Cinque Terre. No thank you. Please, someone else go with Doug next time! I don’t look that unhappy here because we were finished!2014-04-05-05-28-35_IMG_0877

  • Biggest struggle: the curling iron hunt! ha.

  • Biggest goal from this trip: put together a book of all the doors I photographed. I have so many!
    2014-04-01-09-05-08_IMG_0311   2014-04-02-06-22-26_IMG_0483

  • Most unexpected thing: SO MANY DOGS! EVERYWHERE! I loved it!

  • It’s a cat trick!

  • Places I want to go back to: Venice, Florence, Pisa, Assisi, and Vatican City.
  • Biggest impact from this trip: Doug no longer has a Fitbit! It is so odd. Since this trip he has decided not to wear it again. He said he dislikes the new clips and is done wearing it. It makes me higher on the leaderboard, but I know he is beating me in real life. Smile

  • I loved going to Italy, but the best part for me was going with my DB. I had such a great time. I am glad we finally went on our “honeymoon”.
Love and Hugs, Lizzie


Fitbit Stats: It's gone forever. I lost it in the fiasco that was driving in Rome and actually lost it one previous time on the plane on the way to Italy. It was a long, fun journey with the fitbit, but I'm done with the fancy little step tracking device.

Favorite City: Venice. If we're talking "city" by population standards, Venice was definitely my favorite. Of the places we visited, the choices would be Florence, Pisa, Rome, or Venice -- and considering Pisa we only went to see the tower and the other two cities I had to drive in, Venice is the clear choice! That, and it really does have a certain charm about it that's very hard to duplicate. I'm really glad we had a native Venitian give us a tour -- it gave us a little extra culture to go with our stay there. There are a lot of similarities to New Orleans there in Venice, and maybe that's why I liked it so much. I also liked that you could walk anywhere among the islands and you felt safe. At any time of the night.

We did hear some stories from other people that visited Venice that you can have an absolutely different stay in that city than the one we had. Acqua alta (high water) happens in the winter time, generally in November and December, and can adversely affect your plans. Lizzie and I saw these neat little stacks of what looked like what would happen if scaffolding and picnic tables got together and had some children. Our guide explained that these were out for acqua alta and they built elevated walkways out of these packages in the lower areas so you could walk around without sloshing in water. These are evidently out all the way through the middle of spring. Other friends visiting Venice in June didn't even see the offspring of picnic tables and scaffolding. Pity.

Just keep in mind if you're there in the winter, it might not be as nice a picture as we paint it. I honestly thought this was going to be a little rougher considering you really need a boat to get around Venice and Lizzie has a fear of water. I'm really glad she took a liking to the city, I would definitely like to go back there.

Favorite place: This one is a toss-up between Cinque Terre and Tuscany. These are two very different places with two very different feelings. I think if I had to choose one, I would choose Cinque Terre, but that's probably because of all the fond memories I have of being a child on the water. The people in both places were fantastic -- the fishermen of Cinque Terre and the.. hillbillies? of the hill towns. Not that anyone was anything like what you'd call a hillbilly here in the states, I just don't know what else to call them. They aren't all farmers, everyone in each hill town has a job -- villagers maybe? Hill villagers? I don't know, I'm just going to move on.

The feeling in Cinque Terre (rough translation: Five Lands) is laid back. Nothing is pressing in any of those towns -- Vernazza had the most "bustle" and that was really due to some cruise ship traffic that was in for the weekend. Nobody was in a hurry, everyone was friendly -- and the seafood was phenomenal. As Lizzie mentioned -- who knew anchovies could be so good? Seriously -- they get a bad rap in the US for being "fishy" or "salty," but fresh anchovies are among my favorite foods after trying them. I was so excited about them, when we went to the grocery in Monterosso to get some stuff to ship home, I had to buy them then and there. Not thinking that clearly, these are going to be packaged the same way for longer shelf life. So alas, the jar of anchovies we shipped home is not as good as the fresh fish we had in Cinque Terre, but it is still delicious. Side note -- if anyone has any good anchovy recipes, definitely let me know. (Also, eating mantis shrimp is AWESOME:

I definitely want to come back to the 5 lands when all the hiking trails are open. If anyone else wants to come, let me know -- Lizzie is not going to be my partner for that. I love her dearly, but we are not hiking those trails together. (Lizzie Note: HA! I agree completely)

The food in Tuscany was also phenomenal, in a completely different way. And the people there were also very friendly and not in a hurry to do anything. So those are clearly what I enjoyed about the two places because I think those are about the only similarities that they have.

Tuscany was where we had my favorite room, by far. Fonte Bertussi is AMAZING. Andrea and Manuela are amazing hosts and I would highly recommend anyone travelling to the area to stay there. Their grounds are beautiful, their family is very welcoming, and the breakfasts can't be missed. If we go back to the area, I'm definitely going to ask that we stay there again.

Places I want to go back to: I think I'd go back to all of them. I do want to see a few more places in Italy if I do make it back there, so I'd have to make some compromises, but there wasn't one place we went to that I wouldn't want to go back to. Maybe Verona or Pisa? I feel maybe I hit the only things I wanted to see in those two towns, but there were lots of little cafes and shops in Verona that looked pretty awesome and Pisa is a big place and has much more to offer than the tower grounds. But those are the only ones I can say I wouldn't be disappointed missing if I made a repeat trip to Italy.

I'm also very glad I started to learn Italian before going to Italy. Though my skills are broken and poor, it was very helpful to be able to understand some words. Lots of words are similar to English -- especially those with Latin roots. It's also gratifying to know what the people around you are saying. I will also say that there is likely no substitute for talking to another person when learning a new language. I learned a lot of Italian, but nothing taught me more than the woman on the street in La Spezia shouting "Vedi! Anatralito!" I learned then and there that Italians make up words that aren't in their official language by adding -ito or -lito to the end to mean "little" or "baby." There were some little baby ducks swimming around in a stream down below the bridge. I likely would have understood that she was shouting about the baby ducks without learning any Italian, she was pointing and making an "awww" face. But knowing what she was saying enriched that moment all the more in my brain. I learned it all on Duolingo. I'm a level 13 Italian speaker. If you want to compete against me, my handle is dougitaly.

I'll wrap this up -- my update is full of text and void of pictures and you're probably not reading anymore unless you were intrigued by my depiction of the scaffolding and picnic tables having sex. I'm not really sure about the mechanics of that myself, but I'm sure of the outcome.

What I'd like to see next time: Venetian bicycles. I'm thinking paddleboat or some fancy bike seat on top of a hydrofoil. That would be an awesome way to commute in those canals. Although, amphibious would probably be best so you can go anywhere in that maze of a city. Maybe they make something for that?

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