We decided on our family trip to Italy more than a year, and have been actively planning it for 6 months, so it was kinda surprising just how surprising the trip was. We weren’t prepared for just how much we’d find in Rome, the Cinque Terra, Venice, Tuscany and Florence. Here’s what we saw, with tons of photos.
We landed in Rome on Friday morning and took a bus into Termini station, and eventually found our way to the AirBnB apartment, on the west side of town, at Valle Aurelia, near the Vatican—but first, the bus just happened past the Roman Coliseum (above).
After that, we napped—then we started to work through Rome: Forum, Vatican, Palatine Hill, Capitoline Hill, the biggest, baddest equestrian statue of emperor Marcus Aurelius that made me want to watch Gladiator in the Capitoline museum, the Diocletian baths, the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon.
I knew Pompeii’s story but the thing I had to see to understand is just how much of Mount Vesuvius is missing—how much higher it must have been until it blew its top in 79 AD and dropped 10 meters of ash across the countryside, burying this city for a millennium and moving the Bay of Naples back half a mile. Virginia really enjoyed our tour, and wished she had a lot more time there.
This “vertical city” literally falls down the mountain to the Mediterranean Sea. It was gorgeous and one of Virginia’s few regrets on the trip was not buying any clothing there.
These “five towns” are a couple hours north of Rome, past Pisa, and totally picturesque. We stayed in Vernazza, which is a one-street town that sorta pours down a mountain to the sea, with an adorable, tiny harbor. Our AirBnB was on the second floor and our bedroom was extremely pink (you’ll know it immediately below). We ate by the harbor on the first night and in a restaurant perched 100 feet up on the second. We also hiked from Vernazza to Monterossa, which is one of the most glorious, beautiful walks you could ever take in your life.
One of those places where East and West meet. St. Mark’s Basilica was strange and beautiful. I loved how different it was than St. Peter’s in Rome. No gondola ride for us.
This was our “time off,” aided by our friend Kris, who directed us here. We relaxed by the pool, hiked around the town of Artimino, checked out the Medici family hunting lodge, ate like kings (and queen), and were treated to a great wine tasting by Cristina.
Florence was our final stop and, in some ways, I wish it had been our first. It had so much to offer, but we were starting to get fatigued. One of my favorite times in our trip was a late afternoon stop at the Piazelle Michaelangelo (it’s his hometown), enjoying a refreshment and looking over the city.
From Florence, we caught the train to Rome and the airport and headed home—well, Pete, Virginia and I did. Kelly booked a flight to Paris and went there on the way to Amsterdam. He comes home Wednesday.
It was great to visit Italy. Even better was the chance to spend uninterrupted time with the boys, which is difficult now that Pete works and Kelly has school and his job as a counselor at summer camp in upstate New York.
- We did AirBnB everywhere but Artimino and it was for the most very good. Locations were good, and most of the master bedroom beds were good. The boys’ beds, not so much, though they were good sports. The best place we had was in Rome, with a great terrace. The worst was Florence—centrally located, but right on a small, but busy, road and apparently sitting directly in front of a sewage tank that needs to be pumped out on Wednesday mornings. Yuck! We’d do it again.
- Speaking of “gig economy” companies, we used Uber, once, in Rome, to get back home from a dinner in Trastaverte. Guy pulled up in a very sweet Mercedes sedan. Uber wasn’t available outside Rome.
- One bit of curiosity fallout: I am completely intrigued by Michaelangelo. He is simply a transcendent genius. Listening to The Agony and the Ecstasy but I’m thinking there’s a better book to read. What is it, people?
- Time with the boys was great—and when Kelly left us at 3:30 am on the last day, to catch a flight to Paris, I felt both sad he was leaving and buoyant that he was brave enough to strike out on his own. That he texted us later in the day that he’d befriended his hostel roommate (a 20-something copper miner from the Yukon Territory—you can’t make this stuff up) and was rapturous about the city was icing on the cake. Virginia and I have always wanted to hold our sons close and launch them as adults. This trip felt like confirmation that we could do both. And that was a great feeling for the trip home.