Italy - Days 4-7
Day 4 - FlorenceSeptember 29
This was our first day we got to ride on a train. Catching a train at Termini Station (actually any station in Italy) can be a bit tricky. The first day there was definitely the most confusing because we had to figure out where to get our 3-day passes stamped.
We ordered our reservations and 3-day passes weeks ago and they arrived in the mail. But for them to be official they had to be filled out and stamped by someone in the station. After waiting in the wrong line we found the place and were ready to board.
Well actually we were ready to wait to board. Most of the time in the train stations is spent looking up at the big board, waiting for it to say what Bin our train would be arriving at.
The train route shows up on the board about an hour before departure but the track where you board the train doesn't show up until about 15 minutes before departure. Then when the number does pop up on the board, everyone would run to that track as the train was just pulling in.
The seats were alright, slightly bigger than an airplane, but the cool thing is that if you have a group, 4 of you can all sit at a table.
Also the train speeds up to over 120mph once you get out of the city, so to get to Florence only took about an hour and a half.
Here's the inside of the Florence SMN terminal.
Florence itself is a lot more "touristy" than Rome. Lots more people walking around, less traffic and more people selling things. The plan was to first go the Accademia Gallery and see the Statue of David. But on the way we couldn't help but make a quick stop to look at the Duomo.
It almost looked like it wasn't real, or it was some attraction at an amusement park. It was so detailed and colorful.
After that quick stop we headed on to see the Statue of David. If we didn't know where it was we could have easily missed it. The museum looks just like every other building, down an unassuming street. There aren't really any signs. But we knew where it was, then saw the crowd of people.
There were 2 lines, one for people with reservations and one without. We probably waited for 2 hours just to get in. It wasn't that long of a line, it just took forever because they only let a limited number of people at a time.
Here's us waiting in line, admiring a little electric car.
We heard some people say that you could get some sort of reservation and come back later but we had already been waiting for an hour at that point. When we finally got inside i was actually glad they only let a few people in at a time. It wasn't crowded and you could actually take your time and look at all the really great statues. If they just let everyone in at once no one would be able to see the artwork. And after the Sistine Chapel incident i really didn't feel like being crammed into another museum.
It's actually pretty small inside. There's only a couple of rooms, one with paintings and a couple with statues. The statues were amazing. They were the plaster test statues that the artist would make before getting approval to make the actual marble statue.
But the main reason for coming was to see the Statue of David. It did not disappoint. I thought it was life size but it was huge, probably 20 feet tall.
You weren't suppose to take pictures but i took a couple sneaky ones.
After leaving the museum we headed back south toward the church.
We made our way to the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. From the pictures i saw i imagined an old wooden rickety bridge with multi-level stores and ladders.
It wasn't exactly what i imagined. The bridge was just a bunch of jewelry stores crammed in next to each other.
After the bridge and some more shopping our original plan was to walk up to the top of Piazelle Michelangelo, which is a hill with the view of Florence. We were all pretty tired but kept walking. As we went up the zig-zag pathway the view kept getting better and better.
This view was one of the best things we saw in Italy.
We stayed up there for about an hour then decided to take a bus back to the station. We had to ask 5 different people before we found out where to buy a bus pass. Another reason we should have just gotten the 7 day passes. But we made it back to the station and caught our train back to Rome.
Day 5 - RomeSeptember 30
Karrie, Jeff and i got up early and decided to walk to the Colosseum. The guy at our hotel said it was an hour and a half walk; it took maybe 30 minutes. It looked amazing from the outside.
The line was semi short so the three of us waited and bought tickets for everyone. They showed up on the bus a little later and because we had tickets we all just walked in. By that time the line had gotten much longer.
People enter on the lower level, then you have to find the stairs to get up to the second level. Inside was ok, it looks a lot more ruined then it does from the outside.
We left and went next door to the roman ruins.
The same ticket for the Colosseum also gets you into the ruins.
Some people were tired so they sat and waited for us by the huge arch.
The ruins themselves were alright, but the view of Rome from the top of the hill, i think, was the best part. Also i collected some seeds from two palm trees and a couple of limes.
It was a long and hot day, everyone went back to the hotel but i decided to walk to Santa Maria del Popolo. I passed the Spanish Steps then stayed on the high road.
Before the trip i made reservations online at a restaurant for Karrie and i to go on her birthday. The place was near our hotel that had decent reviews. But as i was walking i passed a really nice place on the hill called Ciampini. So i made new reservations there instead.
Then i kept going up the hill. There were peach trees that lined the road.
I finally made it to the top. There was a really nice view of Rome and a park with all sorts of trees. Again i collected more seeds then headed back to the hotel.
Day 6 - FlorenceOctober 1
Back to Florence for another day. We caught the train then had to hurry to our meeting point for the cooking class.
I was a little worried about the cooking class, it was the only official tourist thing we did. But it was great. They took us to some kitchen down a little alley. We washed up, put on aprons then started making the dough.
The cooks were great, they would show each group how to make it first then we all had to do it on our own.
Here was the guy showing us how to fill the ravioli.
Then we ate in the basement.
The food was the best thing we had eaten on the trip so far. Narrowly beating McDonalds in some peoples opinion.
After the cooking class we were all really tired so we split up to do our own thing. Karrie and i walked around, bought some things, then headed back to the train station.
Luckily Jeff and Patty stopped at the station earlier, they found out that somehow we had reserved the return train ticket that left from the other Florence train station. We had time but we didn't know where the other station was so we took a cab. The other station was smaller and not as nice as Florence SMN. So we waited by the track for our train to arrive.
Finally getting on the right train.
Day 7 - RomeOctober 2
October 2nd is both Karrie's and Fallon's birthday. The plan was to go to the catacombs and the Appian Way.
First we had to figure out the right bus or buses to take. I asked the guy at the front desk and he said "Oh, very complicated, must take 3 buses." So i looked online and saw that we could take the #86 then get off and take the #213.
Long story short i told everyone to get off at the wrong stop (7 stops too early) then we had to take the #81 to then get on the #213. Not a huge deal but a lesson learned.
Here's us eating bread sticks waiting for the #213 bus.
We had planned on going to two different catacomb's. They are all open from 9am to noon then 2pm to 5pm.
However we arrived at noon so with the two hour wait we walked along the Appian Way, the oldest road in the world. We didn't see the part of the road with the original stones but it was still nice.
We walked around, had lunch then went to Domitilla Catacomb. It was €8 but totally worth it. The catacomb was way better than i though it would be. I had imagined just one or two hallways with a couple of tombs. It turned out that just this catacomb alone had over 50 kilometers of hallways and there are tons more all over Rome. It was like something out of Indiana Jones.
We had a cool guide and walked for a half mile, 40 feet below the ground. Karrie and i brought our little flashlights with us and i'm glad we did.
We weren't suppose to take pictures but i stayed at the end of the group and took a couple.
By the time we got out it was 3:30pm and most of us didn't feel like going to the other catacomb, so we decided to head back. We were going to take the #213 and #86 buses back, but the guy said that we could just take the #160 bus all the way back to the stop by our hotel. He was right, we could have just hopped on that bus on the way there and avoided the confusion.
That night i took Karrie out to dinner at the nice restaurant where i made reservations at the day before. The food was great, i had potato encrusted turbot with truffles. I had never heard of turbot but it was super good. Karrie tried it, she doesn't like fishy food, but even she said it was good.
Only just now did i find out what turbot looks like; not what i was picturing in my head. Anyway the dinner for both of us was €86 which is a lot, but it was really nice and the best meal of the trip.