Home, Home on the Range

Our alarms woke us up at a nice 6am. The final alarm of our honeymoon and it couldn’t be any more bittersweet. Quickly, we had a shower, packed up, had one final look at our adorable hotel, and walked over to the metro.

The metro system is Paris is fantastic, and really trumps that of Italy. Italy seemed to rely more on buses and trains, which were great too. It made traveling between cities a breeze. The metro is Paris though is made for travelers. It’s ridiculously easy to figure out and very affordable. All you need to know is where you’re headed, and the map clearly directs you to the line you should be on. It’s crazy though because we would take at least two escalators down to the platform, which tells you how far below the ground the system runs.

Arriving at the airport, we easily went through security and waited patiently for our plane. It didn’t take us nearly as long as we had anticipated, so we were a bit earlier than we expected.

The first route of our trip home took us to Halifax. It was an easy flight, no issues. We had about an hour layover, just enough time to grab a little snack, before jumping on our next short flight to Ottawa.

The flight itself was easy. Once we arrived was a different story. Apparently, there were big storms in Toronto, where our plane was coming from and most planes were going, and it was an absolute mess. Every flight was delayed. Some flights were canceled. I was annoyed and irritated, and becoming a bit delusional from the lack of sleep. Then, you’d look around and see all the kiddos trying to keep it together, and instead, I felt bad for them!

Three hours later, we finally were able to board. Our plane was packed, and to boot, an old crappy Westjet plane. I tried to stay awake but my body wouldn’t allow for it. It’s such an interesting feeling when you literally have no control over how your body responds. I’d be playing a game on my phone and then would wake up who knows how long later, not even realizing I had fallen asleep.

I wouldn’t claim it to be the best way to end our honeymoon, being up 26 hours straight, but I am glad to be home. It was the perfect amount of time away. Enough time to enjoy everything around us, but also enough time to wish I had brought more than a carry on worth of clothes, and of course to start thinking and missing our family and friends.

There really is something special about coming home to two furry faces which make you feel so loved!

It will take me some time to digest everything we were able to do on our honeymoon. It really was all I could have dreamed for! It was such an incredible journey.

I’ll leave you with a final quote, something that really spoke to me:

Travelling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go: this is my station.’

~Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

First day for a sleep in and did it ever feel lovely! We started our morning off with a simple espresso and treat, and then were pleasantly fueled for the day.

We hopped on the bus across the river and headed south to check out the Pyramid of Cestius. It’s an ancient pyramid circa B.C 12 and is one of Rome’s best preserved ancient buildings. It was built as a tomb for Gaius Cestius. Unfortunately, it had very limited hours so we weren’t able to go inside, but the structure was pretty fantastic to see.

Across from the museum is a small monument dedicated to the victims of racism and fascism. It reads “tutti potenziali bersagli” and shows five people with their hands tied behind their backs, each with a triangle that reminds everyone how individuals were treated during WWII by the Nazis: pink for homosexuals, blue for immigrants, brown for gypsies, red for anti-fascists, and the yellow Star of David for the Jewish.

After seeing these two moving sites, we hopped back on the bus and headed up to the Campo de’Fiori area for a little shopping and lunch. As we were walking, the rain started to fall and it was such a relief from the heat. Much needed and we loved it!

For lunch, we stopped at a place that was deemed for having one of the best carbonara in town. When in Rome! We began our lunch with an appetizer sampler. It included whipped cod fish, meatball with an Italian version of salsa verde (very different and very good!), zucchini ball, bruschetta topping, and burrata cheese and anchovy on a pastry.

Then, of course, we ordered the carbonara and cacio e pepe. They were both so creamy and heavenly!

We ended with a delicious espresso, and then boarded the bus again to go north to the Borghese Gardens.

The Borghese Gardens occupy three square miles and contain numerous fountains, statues, Rome’s zoo, and endless pathways. We walked around it for an hour or so, enjoying the nature and peacefulness that it brings.

At 5pm, we had a reserved time for the Borghese Gallery, which has a collection of world class sculptures and art. You’re only allowed an allotted two hours to tour the place so we needed to be sure to start on time.

The main entry hall shows numerous Greek sculptures and stunning ceiling architecture.

As you enter the first room, you are immediately drawn to the statue of Pauline Borghese as Venus. This was created in the mid 18th century, where Napoleon’s sister posed nude for the sculpture Canova, creating quite the scandal in Europe.

In the second room, is a statue of David, created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, said to be the David that “acts” compared to Michelangelo’s David who “thinks”.

In another room, is Bernini’s statue to represent the story of Pluto (Hades) and Persephone, from 1622. The myth tells us that Hades was from the underworld, but occasionally ventured above, and one day fell in love with Persephone. Hades confided in his brother Zeus, who together came up with a plan. They caused the ground to split underneath her, and he kidnapped her and made her his wife. The three headed dog is the animal that guarded the underworld. The statue created by Bernini depicts the action as Persephone was being kidnapped. Stories like this were usually shown through paintings, not statues, because of the difficulty in portraying action and feelings. Quite a masterpiece!

These were the main highlights for me, but of course there were numerous other statues.

Upstairs, in the Pinacoteca, there were impressive paintings by Bernini, Raphael and many others.

One thing that I found particularly fascinating about this gallery was the 3D illusion of the ceiling art work. Somehow the artist made it appear as though the people were sitting on ledges or standing and popping out at you. I was amazed by the technique, especially for occurring so long ago.

Once our time was up in the gallery, we jumped back on the bus and returned to our neighborhood for dinner. Being as it was our final night in Rome, and as we had been doing all day, we had to eat as the Romans do. We order a beautiful bottle of red and two classic pizzas.

We ended our meal with an espresso and our final tiramisù.

As a farewell to Rome, we even had our final gelato.

It hard to describe in words how I feel about this city. You could spend hours walking around and still not be able to see every little piece of history that’s here. It’s inspired me to be more appreciative of the past and to truly learn about the things that make our world so unique and special. I look forward to returning again one day!

The Pope Says Hi

We had another early morning rise today. Why, you ask? Because we had plans to have breakfast with the Pope. Well, not quite, but you get the idea.

We took the bus to the Vatican area, turned around the corner, and were greeted by the stunning image of St Peter’s Basilicia.

It truly is something to see! Because we were there so early, there was hardly anyone in the streets or in the square. We quickly went through the security process and walked to the Vatican museum. Here, a line was already forming, but our fancy tickets allowed us in right away. We were escorted through the main entrance and taken in a garden area where we were served an American style breakfast.

Once 8am hit, we were free to start exploring the museum early. It’s hard for me to really even begin to describe the wealth, detail, and extravagance of this place. It’s stunning in every direction you look and every single artefact there. Each room has ridiculously detailed painted ceilings that were so beautiful! I can’t even imagine what those artists would think of our world today.

Probably my favourite hall in the museum was the Gallery of Maps. It was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII, and it took the artist Danti three years to paint 40 panels in the 120m long hall. It’s said that these maps are 80% accurate. At the end of the hall are two maps labeled ancient Italy and modern Italy.

Another impressive series of rooms were the Raphael Rooms. Pope Julius II commissioned a then young Raphael to decorate four rooms to outdo his predecessor. The first composition was the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament in 1509, where he created an image of the church both on earth and in heaven.

A particularly impressive fresco by Raphael was one called The Deliverance of Peter completed in 1514. Apparently, the fresco itself is a beautiful imagery of light and advanced techniques back in the day, to show reflections, and the natural vs manmade light.

Of course though, the most impressive part of the museum was the Sistine Chapel. It’s famous for Michelangelo’s 4 year project, where he beautifully combined the Renaissance spirit and a new direction of hope. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photographs, so you’ll have to go see it for yourself. Rest assured it’s well worth it!

Here are a few other random and iconic photos from our day in the museum.

It was really both surprising and impressive to see these museums. I’m still trying to understand the amount of wealth there, and how it seemed to be a thing for each pope to do something more extravagant than the previous. I can’t quite wrap my head around it yet.

After we had seen enough church and art for the day, we walked along the Vatican walls for a bit, touring the city.

This eventually led us out of the city and to a castle called Castel Sant’Angelo, Castle of the Holy Angel. It was originally commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian back in A.D 123, as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The Pope later converted the house into a castle at the beginning of the 14th century.

The castle contained a lot of history and the thought that went into building it was quite astonishing. For example, the draw bridges, trap doors, everything to keep enemies out. It also houses the original angel by Raffaello, a bronze statue of Michael the archangel, beautiful paintings, and of course a stunning, panoramic view of both the Vatican and Rome. We both thoroughly enjoyed this place and the history in it.

By this point, it was fairly late and about time for us to start thinking about lunch. We walked back across the river and settled for a place off of Plaza Navona. We began our lunch with some burrata cheese, prosciutto, and olives.

Then, we shared the lamb and carbonara. Both were very satisfying!

It was time for our predinner freshen up, so we headed back to our place to relax and get ready before heading out again.

Tonight we decided upon a place in our Trastevere community. On our food tour, we learned that it’s common to eat pastas for lunch, as the wood burning ovens aren’t started until dinner time. We’ve been adopting this custom to have pasta for lunch, and save the pizza for dinner. We went to a tasty place called Dar Poeta. We began with the classic street foos, supplí.

It doesn’t look nearly as appetizing as it tastes! For our pizza, we stuck to some cheesy classics. Daniel ordered the Cacio e Pepe and I ordered the buffala.

Another delicious meal in the books!

“Are You Not Entertained?”

This morning we woke up early to start our walk to see the infamous sites of Rome. We strolled across the bridge and led ourselves into the ancient city. After quickly grabbing our Roma pass, our first stop was the Colosseum.

This stunning structure was built in A.D 80, when the Roman Empire was at its peak. The Colosseum’s real name was Flavian Amphitheater, which was used as an arena for gladiator contests. The Colosseum’s size is so impressive! It’s four stories high, 160 ft high, and covers almost six acres. The stadium could hold somewhere between 50-70,000 people.

As we entered the building and looked below us, you could see the underground passages. This was the place where the animals and prisoners were held until battle time. There were stadium like bleachers that surrounded the arches, and slanted upwards from the arena floor.

It was a pretty surreal experience to be in the Colosseum, but as I read about the horrid events that took place there, it really made me think. Here, men and prisoners were put against either animals or one another to their death, and people gathered to watch it. Quite barbaric indeed!

It really is a spectacular building to see though. Just the size of it, is beyond measures. It’s filled with so much history about the ancient civilizations of Rome.

As we continued our tour through the ancient city, we moved next to Palatine Hill. On the way in, you’re greeted by the Arch of Titus. It was constructed in A.D 82 by the emperor to commemorate his brother, Titus, and his many victories.

The Palatine Hill overlooks the forum and is packed with history: from the huts of Romulus to the huge Imperial Palace.

As we continued on, we entered the Roman Forum. This was Rome’s birthplace and civic centre, and where everything important to the civilization occurred. There are numerous churches, arches, half broken columns, and temples throughout the area.

Although we could have stayed there for hours, the sun and heat was really started to get to us, so we continued up to Capitoline Hill to the Piazza del Campidoglio and the Capitoline Museum.

We spent hours in this place admiring the history, statues, art work, and portraits. Of particular interest to me was the Capitoline She-Wolf. According to Roman mythology, the city’s founders, twins Romulus and Remus, were abandoned on the banks of the Tiber River when they were infants. A she-wolf saved their lives by letting them suckle.

Another famous statue is the Capitoline Venus, which is contained in an octagonal room all to herself.

Finally, of particular interest to me was the original but restored statue of Marcus Aurelius on a horse. This is the greatest surviving equestrian statue circa 173 C.E. The bronze statue stands over 4m high.

Throughout the museum there were so many things to look at and admire. It was quite fascinating and we learned a lot to further our interest in ancient Rome.

By the time we left the ancient city, it was close to 2pm and we were both starving. We walked towards the Spanish steps, and stopped at a well known place called Pastifico. Here they cook a few pastas throughout the day and sell them, to-go, for only €4! We ordered one of each that they had available, the gnocchi and something else we weren’t too sure what it was. They were both great, and exactly what we needed.

We took the tram back to our neighborhood to stop for a little drink. We found a local bar where they sell craft beers. They were actually rated #1 in 2010 for best beer bars in the world. We each got a pint to quench our thirst from the heat.

And of course, an afternoon isn’t complete without a gelato. Today, I tried the melon and lemon (you can see I’m really venturing outside of the box), and Daniel had two local favourites: zabione and a hazelnut.

We arrived back at our place for a quick shower and to freshen up before heading out for dinner.

For dinner, we went to L’Antico Moro. They had an set menu available where you could choose either the fish or meat option. I went for the fish and Daniel the latter. To begin with, we both received a bruschetta: Daniel’s was the traditional and mine was a white version, with pepper and pecorino cheese.

Next, Daniel had the tomato sauce pasta with the insanely delish “bacon” and I had the white pasta with mussels.

Our next course was sausage, potatoes, and salad for Daniel, and calamari for me.

We both ended with a light, chocolate cake and an espresso.

The meal was delicious and we were both fully stuffed! As we were walking home, we stumbled across an adorable, craft brew bar which has 12 different, local beers on tap. The neatest part though is that you can choose your beer and they can it on the spot for you.

When in Rome…

Finally Roma!

Finishing off our final tasty breakfast in Firenze, we sauntered sadly to the train station. Firenze is such a beautiful city, with so much history, art, and romance. It will forever have a place in my heart.

Our train ride to Rome was only 1.5 hours and we decided to walk in the sweltering heat to our new B&B. About 35 minutes later, and clothes soaked in sweat we were here!

Rome already is breathtaking. Along our walk we saw gorgeous buildings, which makes me so excited for what’s to come.

Once we were cleaned up and ready, we headed out to find our bearings in our new setting. We’re staying in a hip little part of Rome on the south side of the river called Trastevere, which literally means behind the river. It’s a medieval neighborhood that has strong working class roots, but is filled with traditional trattorias, artisan shops, and beautiful plazas.

We ventured across the river, admiring Tiber Island from the bridge. It’s the world’s smallest inhabited island, and was apparently home to an ancient temple of Asclepius, the god of healing.

As we crossed over the bridge, we walked through the cobble stoned streets and admired the beauty of the town. Everywhere you look there’s something historically old that takes your breath away. I don’t think I could ever get bored of it!

We stopped for dinner at a little local place called Cul de Sac, and sat outside to enjoy the lively street. We began our dinner with pâté, a sampler actually. We had the hare and truffle, sweet and sour boar, and partridge and juniper. They were all so good, but the hare was the winner in my books.

For our mains, I had a black rice and mussels dish, and Daniel had the Roman ravioli. We washed it all down with a local, tasty red.

As we were finishing up our wine, there was an impressive street performer who stopped by.

We walked through Camp de’ Fiori to check out the busy square, watch the street acts, and check out the place.

Then, we walked back over to our side of town to see what was happening. We stopped to get a peek at the Basilica, before walking down by the river to check out a night market.

Along the Tiber River were shops, artists, bars, carnival type games, and numerous other tents to check out. It’s part of a summer festival called Lungo Il Tevere that happens every year in Rome. We enjoyed strolling along the river checking out a few of the things it showcased.

Foodies in Firenze

Update on the negroni:

After our dinner last night, we walked over to Atrium Bar. They are reviewed to make the best negroni in Florence. For those who don’t know, the negroni cocktail originated in Florence. Legend says that Count Camillo Negroni asked his bartender friend to strengthen his favourite drink, the Americano, which had equal parts red vermouth, Campari, and soda water. His friend replaced the soda water with gin, and thus the negroni was created!

Atrium Bar is a stunning, high end venue with gorgeous velvet couches, a high stocked bar, and servers in suits. We sat down and were instantly greeted with sweet flavored nuts, a man playing the piano, and of course our negroni. I would have to say it was definitely the best negroni I’ve ever had!

Longing for a Florence sleep in, we took it upon ourselves to be alarm free this morning, and a glorious sleep we had! Waking up much past the breakfast hour, we headed straight to the central market to check out the lower level where all the locals buy their groceries. It’s open everyday until 2pm, and literally has everything you could imagine: fruit and veggies, cheese and meats, pasta, fish, olive oil, wine, and much more.

After wandering in awe of all the delicious looking foods, and feeling quite hungry ourselves, we ordered an insane charcuterie board with two glasses of red.

Strolling the streets around the market, we couldn’t help but see and smell all the amazing leather goods. They have everything: purses, shoes, belts, jackets. And they are just gorgeous in their quality. We decided to do a little shopping and I bought Daniel a beautiful leather belt, and he bought me some pretty great leather sandals.

Wandering to the main hub of Florence, we wanted to use our museum ticket purchased yesterday to get in a few more attractions. Our first stop was the Museo della Misericordia, which is dedicated to the worlds oldest voluntary associations. They have been active since 1244 and continuously and anonymously offer charitable help to the poor. The museum showcases their work, the ways in which they would help the less fortunate, and the many gifts and donations to the museum itself. The museum is quite small (but has A/C!), and we were given a free, private tour. The older man described all the details and artefacts in each room.

Leaving the museum, we wandered over to the baptistery to see if there was a line, and luckily we managed to see inside. The ceiling decor, marble columns, and tiled floors were beautiful pieces of work.

We completed our afternoon with a tasty gelato before refreshing prior to dinner.

Prior to dinner, we scoped out a little brew pub which only serves craft beers. Surprisingly, it has been hard to find craft beers anywhere we’ve been. This place even does flights, so we order two flights to try their entire list, except one.

Our dinner reservation for tonight was at a restaurant called Brandolino. We ordered a bottle of Chianti wine, the mushroom fettuccine, and the florence renowned meal, the Florentine Bistecca. It was incredible: so tender, so tasty, and just perfectly seasoned goodness. To end with, our server brought us a complimentary glass of dessert wine. It was the perfect way to end our Firenze trip!

The Beauty of Firenze

Awaking bright eyed and bushy tailed, we quickly walked down to the Galleria dell’Accademia in hopes of seeing the real David. As we turned the corner, a steady line was already being formed. We hopped in and waited just a little over an hour before entering the gallery.

As we walked in, we were completely surrounded by beautiful pieces of art work and statues galore.

Of course, the most anticipated feature was that of David. I can’t even describe the massiveness of the statue and the immense amount of detail that it contains. It’s something else.

We continued further throughout the gallery and I was quite in awe of the sculptures in general. The amount of time and patience to create these beautiful pieces of artwork is impressive. I also learned that through the Middle Ages, art was dedicated solely to representing God.

Once through the majority of the gallery, we continued further to explore the music museum. It has beautiful pieces of instruments dating back to the 1600s.

When our tour was complete, we headed to our local breakfast spot for another tasty morning treat.

We spent the next few hours walking around Florence and seeing all the major sites. We went to the cathedral and duomo and were blown away by the grandeur of the plaza. It’s massive and absolutely stunning. The pictures don’t even do it justice.

Venturing on, we headed to the Ponte Vecchio for a view of the Arno River, passing the Uffizi Gallery on the way. The line was way too crazy to wait.

We crossed the river to the less touristy side and explored the beautiful streets. We also stopped for a little gelato snack!

By 2:30pm we were quite hungry so headed back over to find a place for lunch. We had scoped out a few but all were closed by the time we arrived. Instead, we stopped at a place purely by its name: Da Pinocchio.

To start with, we had the bruschetta.

Next, we shared the scampi linguini and the seafood risotto.

It was recommended to us to check out the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, which was back in the Duomo square. It’s a museum dedicated to describing the steps and process that went on to actually build the Duomo and Cathedral. It also contains several statues by Donatello and Michelangelo, and bronze gilded baptistery panels. It was quite education and we enjoyed our time there.

Deciding on what to do or where to go next, as we were walking around the Duomo plaza, we noticed there was a very short line up for the Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto). We stood in line for no more than 20 minutes before being able to ascend the 414 steps and get our nice leg workout! When we arrived at the top in record speed and real sweaty, we were surrounded by gorgeous views of Florence and especially the Duomo itself.

Shortly after, we headed back to our B&B to get ready and cleaned up for our dinner tonight. Plus we needed to break open our brunello that we bought yesterday!

We ventured back to the market for dinner. Tonight we tried out the pizza. We ordered the margherita and the magnifico, with a glass of red and a beer.

After dinner, we decided to check out a local negroni bar. I’ll report on that tomorrow!