Better late than never right? It is just over a year since we embarked in one of the most interesting and relaxing holidays I have ever had and I have finally organised myself with some pictures and words to tell you about it. There is so much to say I have split this post into two parts. Part Two coming soon.
We had been planning this holiday for years! Ben’s older brother Jake and his girlfriend Giorgia have lived in Italy a couple of years longer than Ben and I have lived in the UK. They met working at a ski resort and have been in and around Italy on and off since then. So it is no surprise that we have been out to visit them a lot. We’ve been snowboarding (and more recently for me, skiing) in Canazei many times and spent time with them during summer in Venice and summer on the mountain.
Throughout all these trips we have talked about doing a road trip around Italy, to see the famous sights of Florence and Rome and the southern landscapes. Jake and Giorgia, and by proxy us, have seen heaps of the north of Italy but never the south. In 2016 it became a now or never kind of situation, Jake and Giorgia were planning on moving to New Zealand for two years and didn’t know when they’d be back in Italy. With all the gear and the car they had with them, the time was now!
We had a loose plan to cover 9 days in the country with Ben and I flying in to Pisa and out of Naples. Here is how we spent the in between..
We flew in to Pisa and met Jake and Giorgia early morning for some obligatory tourist shots with the tower.After a coffee and brioche and realising there was nothing more we wanted to do in Pisa, we made our way to the car and started the road trip. First stop, Florence.
Throughout the whole trip we stayed in a fantastic group of holiday parks. They are situated all over Italy and offer cabins, campsites and camper van sites. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the group, but I do know the places we stayed. As we left a site and paid our bill we would get vouchers for other sites in Italy, Perfect for travellers on a budget. The campsites were always situated just outside a city and offered cheap, clean accommodation. We would leave the car there and take public transport into the heart of the city which meant no stressful city driving, no parking fees and no hassles. We stayed here in Florence, it was up in the hills and nice and quiet.The advantage of staying outside the city is as we were driving out we found this great viewpoint over the city.
The next morning we woke up for the long trip to Rome through Tuscany and Sienna and a stop off at Lake Bolsena.^^ I slept a lot of the drive through Tuscany as I was still recovering from a cold. But I woke for the photo stops..and to goof off in group shots.
^^ We spotted the scene on the right and thought it was a real life Romeo and Juliet. I loved walking the sun kissed streets of Sienna.
^^ A beautiful detour to Lake Bolsena as the sun was lowering in the sky. We wandered past wine shops and restaurants on the way to the lakeside. Stopping for ice cream on the way.
We arrived on the outskirts of Rome to a sprawling holiday park for our next campsite stay. We attempted out first BBQ dinner here but waited hours for the coals to heat up and ended up eating well after 11pm.. fail. All the while waiting for our BBQ food we made a plan of attack for our day and a half in Rome.
We started the morning early with a walking tour of the city. We joined the Vatican Walk with Rome Free Walking Tours. The itinerary hit all the important spots and the guide was really knowledgeable and friendly and gave us all the interesting facts as we walked. It started at the Spanish Steps and left us at the Vatican. I was particularly taken with the Pantheon. What an amazing building? We came back at night, too, to explore around the whole building without the masses of tourists.
I also like the Piazza Navona, we briefly wandered through here on the walking tour and came back in the evening to explore more and have dinner in the restaurants on the little streets around there.As I said, the walking tour left us outside the Vatican. We hadn’t planned on going in at all, but when we got there something compelled us to go in and see it for ourselves. The queue in at midday though was (no surprises here) long! So, uncharacteristically for us, we paid for a guided tour, allowing us to skip the queues and find out a few of the secrets and stories of Vatican City on the way. I’m glad we did as I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this.
^^ It’s well worth going up to the dome. The views over the cathedral and the city were worth all the stairs up I promise.Our last stop in Rome for the day was the Trevi Fountain. We fought our way to the front of the crowds to throw our pennies in and make a wish before running off to catch the last train out of the city.
A trip to Rome just wouldn’t be complete without a wander around the Colosseum though would it? We saved that for our fresh legs the next morning, getting up bright and early in an attempt to beat the crowds, which happily we managed anyway by getting in the right queue. People seemed to just be jumping on the end of the pre-booked ticket queue but without a pre-booked ticket we sauntered up to a much shorter queue and were standing gazing out over the 2000 year old arena within 15 minutes.
I particularly enjoyed seeing the exhibitions here and would recommend devoting at least an hour to seeing this place. They displayed artifacts recovered from the ruins that give insight into how the people were living and what kind of things would have been going on in the arena, like the gladiator duels, but also the gambling games and trinkets bought in by the watching crowds.
With no time to lose we reluctantly said goodbye to Rome and got back on the road heading to the Amalfi Coast. With 5 days left to spend in and around Naples and the Amalfi we weren’t complaining though.
Although, we had to make it through Nola and the craziest drivers I have ever experienced first. More on that in Part Two coming soon.
Thanks to Ben for contributing and helping edit these photos. It’s been so nice looking back at them.