10/5/10

Italy...

In May of 2007 we spent a few weeks relaxing in Italy.  We visited:  Milan, Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Siena, Umbria, Sorrento, Naples, Amalfi Coast, Capri and finally Rome.

MILAN
After we landed in Milan and picked up our rental car we made our way to the center of Milan.  Our first stop was a self guided tour on the rooftop of the Duomo.  Besides the amazing views we also saw lots of spires and statues that you would miss otherwise.

 Click here to see more rooftop photo's.  After spending our morning at the Duomo we did a little window shopping at the Quadrilateral.  It's similar to America's Beverly Hills.  We thought the best streets for people-watching and window shopping were Via Spiga (pedestrian) and Via Montenapoleone.  

LAKE COMO 
It's about an hour drive from Milan to Lake Como.  Once we arrived in Varenna we parked our car and took the passenger ferry during the rest of our stay.  Varenna is a quiet town especially at night.   We loved Varenna and enjoyed taking walks along the water.


Hotel Eremo Gaudio
We stayed at Hotel Eremo Gaudio and enjoyed amazing views of Lake Como.  We took the funicular to their restaurant and ate on the balcony (this was our view). 

BELLAGIO
We felt like everywhere we turned in Lake Como there was a picture perfect postcard waiting.  Bellagio was no different.  It's known as the pearl of Lake Como.  We had lunch in Bellagio and did a little shopping.  We also enjoyed a stroll along the lakeside promenade.


VILLA CARLOTTA
Villa Carlotta was my favorite Villa on Lake Como.  The Villa is an amazing blend of art and nature.  After our tour we spent a lot of time browsing the garden's eight acres.  We walked through an impressive  bamboo garden and saw a variety of flowers.

View from the Villa balcony

The Cinque Terre
We spent two nights in Vernazza while visiting the Cinque Terre.  Like in Lake Como we just took it easy.  The only thing we really had on our itinerary was to hike between all of the villages.  We spent some time people watching and talking to the locals at cafes.   

Vernazza

Hiking the Cinque Terre was a highlight for me.  The hike is seven miles connecting five towns.  It was fun to explore all of the towns while enjoying the beautiful views along the water.

PISA
Greg doing the "Pisa Tourist Pose".  It would be a shame to leave Pisa without this picture. :)

FLORENCE


Near San Gimignano
Tuscan Poppies... We visited Italy in May so the poppies were out in full force.  Everywhere we went we saw fields of bright red Poppies!

San Gimignano


Volterra
In recent years Volterra has risen in popularity due to the Twilight books and movies.  

SIENNA




CORTONA is a charming Medieval City.  It lies on top of the Tuscan Hills.  You'll find olive groves, frescoed churches, piazzas, narrow streets and if you look hard you might find Diane Lane or maybe just Italian lovers.
While driving through Tuscany Greg and I had just passed Cortona as I read it was the setting for the book "Under The Tuscan Sun".  We quickly turned around so we could see "Bramasole", the villa Frances Mayes so beautifully writes about. Mayes describes the ups and downs of renovating a villa in Italy.  It wasn't easy to find Bramasole. We asked several locals and they said they didn't know where it was. Maybe when your living the dream you don't need to read about it.  Bramasole is a beautiful stone home surrounded by flowers with views of the valley.  
Bramasole


This is why you need a car in Tuscany...




CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO
We loved Umbria and especially the small Italian hill town Civita di Bagnoregio!  The town is perched on a hill with a huge canyon surrounding it.  It once had a donkey path leading to the village but it was bombed during World War II and replaced in 1965 with the current footbridge.  We went to Antico Frantoio Bruschetteria for bruschetta.  The cafe has a huge and impressive olive press as you walk in.  There isn't a lot to do in Civita di Bagnoregio but this charming town is worth a stop.



SORRENTO
We stayed in Sorrento for four days and used this as our home base while exploring the sights between Naples and the Amalfi Coast.

We saw lots of lemon and olive trees in Sorrento!  This is a lemon/orange tree (really, both fruits are grown on one tree).  Just about every souvenir you'll find in Sorrento has some connection to these two trees.  




Balcony of our hotel


NAPLES
We spent one day in Naples.  We took a train from Sorrento into Naples then returned later that evening by boat.  Naples is buzzing with energy and reminds me of what Italy would have been like years ago.  It also seems to be a little more rough as the guidebooks pointed out.  And yes Naples has GREAT pizza!  Picture below:  We watched this lady hoist this bucket up and down.  I guess it saved her a few trips down the stairs. :)
POMPEII
Pompeii is truly remarkable!  Through the excavation it really gives you an insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire.

AMALFI COAST


Positano
Driving the Amalfi Coast is breathtaking and also a little scary (driving along the cliffs).  But were glad we had our own car, we enjoyed taking our time to explore and take pictures.



Villa Cimbrone
At the end of the "Terrace of Infinity" are amazing views and reproductions of famous sculptures.  It is a photographers Haven!




CAPRI
We took a boat from Sorrento to the island of Capri.  We then took another boat to get to the Blue Grotto.  I couldn't believe how small the opening was to get inside the Grotto.  You have to lie down as you enter so you don't bump your head.  Its also pretty small once inside.  But it's worth a few boat rides to see the amazingly blue water that reflects off the limestone bottom.


MONTE SOLARO
We took a chairlift up Monte Solaro to see amazing views of Naples and the Faraglioni Rocks.  Make sure to save time to soak up the views!  Next we headed down Monte Solaro for a fairly easy 45 minute hike.


CARTHUSIAN MONASTERY
We spent some time in the town of Capri then walked through the Garden of Augustus.  The gardens have amazing views of the island and Sea with a Monastery in the middle of it all.

ROME
Colosseum
Our last few days were spent in Rome.  After driving endless circles in Milan we decided to stay in a hotel outside of Rome and take the subway in leaving our car behind.  Driving in Italy can be a little scary!  Some road rules don't apply to all drivers apparently.  The whole time I kept thinking we would be lucky to leave Italy without getting into a wreck.  The funny thing is we were in one of the smallest towns in Tuscany and were almost involved in an accident.  The car in front of us crashed and car parts went flying and luckily missed us!

Trevi Fountain


The Vatican Museum
Campo de Fiori 

The sun setting on another great trip!

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