S: Left my Heart in Italy - July 2010
1: Buon Giorno Italia | Buon Giorno Italia | Buon Giorno Italia | Buon Giorno Italia | July 2010 We arrived in Rome early in the morning the day before our Rick Steve's "Heart of Italy" tour began. Exhausted from our long trip, we were overwhelmed as made through the airport. We made plans to take a train from Rome to Florence weeks before we left but were surprised to find out there was a train strike in progress. As we were standing around looking bewildered, we were approached by a taxi driver that was anxious to take us to Florence. Bells were going off in our heads as we reviewed all of our travel advice. Was this a good idea? We took a chance and 90 Euros each and a 2 1/2 hour ride later, we were at our hotel and ready to dig into Itlay....
2: We spent the rest of the day adjusting to the time difference and getting acquainted with the locals. We found the people to be friendly, and the birras to be big! | Hanging outside a local establishment. | Our first "Real Italian" food! | Big Birra!!! | Florence, Italy
3: After a night of exploring, great food, and much needed rest, we woke up the next morning full of anticipation as we departed our hotel to meet up with our tour group at the Hotel California... in Italy?!! | Travel Advisory!!! When you purcahse a ticket on a bus, be sure to validate it as soon as you board the bus! After attempting to take the bus to Santa Maria Novella station, the bus police boarded and required our stamped tickets. I tried my best Italian to express "Io non capisco", but the lack of a stamp on my ticket earned me a 30 Euro fine. I didn't need to understand Italian to know he wanted Cash!!!
4: Florence, Italy | Our first day with the tour group was exciting! We had bellini's with our group as we went through introductions. Nina, our tour guide, laid out some rules for our trip such as always carry your money belt and be on time. Her biggest suggestion, become Italian! We spent the rest of the evening walking through the streeets of Florence and finally winding down to a wonderful group dinner of the speciality, Bistecca Fiorentina.
5: The second day we enjoyed the Accademia where we marveled at David, and toured the Ufizzi's great works. then had free time to make Florence our own. | We made our way up the 414 steps of the Campanile to get the best view of the City. The stairways were very narrow and unnerving, but the view was worth every step.
6: Real Graffiti | Group picture with a copy of our Hometown newspaper. | Florence, Italy
7: The Market where we found 440 Euro Balsamic Vinegar. | Indoor Market Before leaving Florence, our guide Antonia took us to an awesome indoor market. Inside was an awesome assortment of fresh vegetables, meats, seafood, wines, and eateries that were serving great things to eat.
8: Cinque Terre, Italy | We left the hustle and bustle of the city behind and found ourselves in one of the most beautiful and intimate places on earth-CInque Terre. The views were breathtaking, our hotel and its owners were equally charming. Not to mention every hotel room had an oceanside view!
9: One of the "to-do" things is a hike which takes you to each of the 5 towns. We got brave and hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza. The path takes you thru the steep, grapevine covered hills of the area. After a lot of sweating and perhaps a little complaining, we made the 3 miles to Vernazza!
10: Cinque Terre, Italy | VIews from our hike to Vernazza
11: Vernazza | After our hike, we all envied this slumbering cat a little!
12: Cinque Terre, Italy | Our hotel in Monterosso
13: Of the many places we visited on the tour, Cinque Terre was by far our favorite. The ocean sounds, the great views, and the wonderful people made our time there a great memory. No doubt, we will return!
14: After we bid Ciao to the Cinque Terre, we spent the afternoon in Lucca-the city where bicycles rule! | Our guide rented each of us our own bicycles as a mode of transportation during our time in Lucca. | Lucca, Italy
15: We took advantage of our new wheels and trekked downtown for lunch. We found a butcher shop and pizzeria that we could not pass up. We strapped a pizza to the bike, put birras in the basket and headed back to the wall or a scenic picnic lunch.
16: Volterra, Italy City among the Clouds! | We arrived in Volterra on the long winding road through the countryside. Leaving the ocean behind was difficult, but the view of the city perched above the clouds was impressive and inviting!
17: Our local guide in Volterra, Annie, took us on a walking tour through the city. There was a great deal of history in Volterra, and she shared it with enthusiasm! The most incredible story she shared had to to with the evacuation of the German Army and how the town saved this Etruscan Arch from demolition. It was an amazing story! | Historic WWII marker signifying the protection of the Etruscan Arch. | Etruscan artifacts in the museum. | Annie telling the story of the women, children, and elderly saving the arch.
18: After the walking tour and Etruscan museum, we had free time to explore the town and take in the culture. We enjoyed looking around the many shops and grabbed an afternoon espresso. That evening we met Annie's husband for a wine tasting. We were educated on some of the Italian wines from the region. One of our tour group members even celebrated a surprise birthday party! | Volterra, Italy
19: After a great wine tasting, there was only one thing to do... pick up a couple bottles of wine and some prosciutto and cheese and head back to the overlook and watch the sunset. It was spectacular as the sun slowly disappeared down behind the rolling hills into the ocean. Even though they probably see it everyday, many of the residents came out to enjoy the view. It was an unforgettable evening with friends and family.
20: As we settled into Rome for the last 2 days of our tour we were overwhelmed by the bustle and hustle of the big city. The relaxing days of the countryside had turned into busy streets and a quick pace! We spent the first day visiting everything from the Colosseum to the Trevi fountain. Rome had so many sights to see that a single day just scratched the surface!
21: Rome, Italy
23: A day in the Vatican Museum and St. Peters Basilica | St. Peters Tomb | Looking down into St. Peters Tomb | One of the many paintings throughout the Vatican museum | Rome, Italy
24: James and Jenny Heart of Italy Tour Rome - Florence - Cinque Terre - Lucca - Volterra July 2010 It was a great trip... Next... France!!!
25: It was an amazing trip... It is hard to express how much we enjoyed the trip through Italy. The great culture we were immersed into, the food, the wine. The immense history that each city possessed that we had only read about in history books. We couldn't have picked a better place to visit, and the fact that we got to visit with our family and all of the new friends we met just made it unforgettable. As we tried to summarize our trip, looking for the best pictures, the best memories, we found that we could fill a dozen books just like this! It was great the first time and reliving the trip through our memories drives our adventurous spirits to expand our travels to new places. We had to come home... but we left our Hearts in Italy!