Under the Tuscan Sun: My trip to Italy

My friend Virginia asked me to join her family on a 7-day  Carnival cruise around Italy and I obviously obliged!

We  arrived in Barcelona the day before the cruise and went around the city together. My friend Molly who has been in Spain the last year, met us and helped us get to Sagrada Familia, the unfinished cathedral. The outside of it was unlike any other cathedral I have seen – which I’ve seen a lot thanks to my 3-week class around Europe on that very topic. Inside was beautiful. The colors and shapes used were all inspired by nature. It was lighter than other gothic cathedrals.  I am so happy we were able to see this famous place!

The next day we took off for Italy. Our first stop was Monaco. Virginia and I took an excursion to Eze and Nice. Eze was a quaint small town. It was made mostly of stone, with cobble stone (slippery!) streets and little shops. We climbed up and saw a church, but we did not pay to go into the exotic gardens.  The view on top of the mountain was beautiful – even though it was cloudy. The coastline with mountainsides were pretty.

Then we went to Nice, where we stopped for a nutella crepe – wonderful and browsed the flea market, since on Mondays the flower market is closed and it’s a flea market instead.

After out excursion, Virginia and I walked around Monaco and Monte Carlo on our own. Prince Albert had just married Charlene Wittstock days prior to our arrival, so we saw the flowers and banners around the city.  We went inside the small chapel where the bride placed the bouquet.  Not quite as magnificent as William and Kate, but still it was cool to walk the same steps as a royal couple. The bride is from South Africa – hints the flags made of out of the flowers.

We stopped by to see the casino in Monte Carlo,but it was mobbed and required a bag check, so we decided to just head back to the ship.

On Tuesday we took on our 12 hour day in Rome.  We saw the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and piazzas on our own then headed to St. Peter’s basilica and coliseum for a guided tour. St. Peter’s and the Trevi Fountain were SO crowded and it definitely made me appreciate seeing these places in January (during Elon’s winter term program in 2009)  when there were very few tourists. We had a lunch included with the tour and enjoyed salad, lasagna and tiramisu = yum.

The most exciting part of the day was in the coliseum. A guy from our group (and cruise) PROPOSED to his girlfriend inside on the 2nd floor of the coliseum.  I had heard rumor that the guy would propose during lunch and when we first stepped into the coliseum, my heart was pounding for the guy! I forget the exact transition, but the tour guide said something about how the coliseum was not only a place of death, but also of love then called the guy up to tell us more. He gave a few facts about the coliseum and then went into his speech. It was so cute and of course, she said yes! Apparently, not everyone in their family knew it was happening and they came up afterward so excited for the couple!

the proposal!

Wednesday we went to the Grotta del Vento (Wind Cave) at the beginning of the Apuan Alps outside of Livorno. The cave was amazing. It was created by a massive river and they only had to create one man-made tunnel. We took a 2 hour tour of all the stalagmites and stalactites.  We walked down some steep steps into one tunnel – about 80km below the surface, to see the river now.  Afterward, we walked around Lucca and found a delicious pizza place and looked into shops. It was a small town and relatively quiet, so we just enjoyed wandering.

Thursday we had a tour of Pompeii. It was a hot, sunny day and one lady got sick, so we only had a 1 hour tour then we had to wait about an hour for the lady to get medical attention. On the tour, we saw the theater, bakery, brothel and temples. We also saw some pottery and a few of the bodies.

The next part was lunch. There was a large ivy and grape covered walkway and a pretty patio. Lunch had several courses and was so filling! We ate bread, tomato pasta, chicken, vegetables, and cake! It was off for our boat tour of the Amalfi Coast. I was so excited for this part.  The coastline with the cliffs and little fishing towns was absolutely breathtaking. I loved it! We walked around Amalfi and shopped, ate gelato and plotted to move to the town. haha

The next day was our last excursion to Messina. We took a city bus tour and saw the famous clock tower and cathedral of Madonna Della Lettera. The clock tower was all mechanical  and had lions roar, cock crow, disciples, and moving angels. It took about 10 minutes for it to move. The cathedral was very interesting because it mixed different styles of architecture. We went inside the treasure room to see artwork decorated with gold and diamonds in honor of the matron saint.  It was an amazing collection.

I absolutely loved Italy and wish we had more time to explore. I enjoyed the culture, food and sights of each town. I’m sorry it was such a whirlwind and I really wish I spoke Italian, but overall it was a great experience.

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