. . . and then Italy!

Trip Start Jun 20, 2003
Trip End Mar 01, 2004

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Friday, October 3, 2003

Ahhh, Italy. Words simply cannot express how much we loved Italy, but I'll try anyway. We started our travels by flying one of those cheap European budget airlines from Paris into Venice -- impressively, it was even cheaper than rail and obviously much faster. Paris and Venice back-to-back was just drippingly romantic, with one night walking hand in hand around the Eiffel Tower and the next taking a quiet gondola ride through Venice's backwaters. Though parts of Venice are mobbed with tourists, we managed to avoid most of them by simply getting lost in the alleyways. If you have never been before, or have been but didn't like it, getting lost is the key to this city. We actually ended up skipping most of the actual "tourism" and just wandered around, climbing many bridges, sampling some great gelato, and people watching. A lovely time!

We spent the next two nights in Florence, where we did all the touristy things you are supposed to do in the birthplace of the Renaissance, including staring up in wonderment at Michealangelo's David. At the time Susan was reading a biographical novel on Michealangelo, so she acted as our tour guide which was neat and a lot of fun for both of us.

However, it was here we had a bit of a meltdown. We have been on the road for about three months now with six months to go, and -- while this may sound ridiculous -- we were becoming quite tired of living out of our backpacks, eating out night after night, and constantly touring around. Also, we were positively sick of wearing the same few clothes over and over again. The grass is always greener, they say, and we definitely started to feel a bit of homesickness. So we changed our plans for the rest of Italy and decided to take off some time for us.

We first went over to the Cinque Terra, which is a group of five fishing villages (maybe a street long each) right along on the Italian Riveria. Its a great little place, very relaxing. You can hike from village to village on these little rocky, hilly trails with amazing views of the sea. And the beaches were great! Hopefully, one of the pictures we are posting can convey how beautiful it was, but you absolutely must go here. We were lucky to hit great weather, and one day took a 2 hour hike from the little village we were staying at to the next, and spent the rest of the day alternating between baking on the beach and swimming in the glass-like waters of the Mediterranean.

We then went to Siena. All we did there was wander around eating gelato (truly an amazing creation -- especially the nutella flavor). We did some serious clothes shopping and then ate some more! Barely took a picture. Then we were off to Assisi (of St. Francis fame). We rented a little house, complete with mini-kitchen, at this B&B for five glorious days, which came complete with an Italian grandmother who whipped up fantastic meals. Oh, and two dogs who would walk with us as we walked into town for groceries or took a hike. Aside from a quick half-day in Assisi, we did no sight seeing at all the time we were there; just reading and cooking and more relaxing.

So we were perfectly recharged as we headed off to Rome -- to Michealangelo's Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, the Colossuem, and the Roman Forum. You know, all the touristy stuff. We were really glad to have taken the time off because we absolutely loved Rome. St. Peter's Basilica was particularly moving. Between Italy and France we feel like we have taken an art history course. In fact, that has been the best part about Western Europe; we came for the food but just fell in love with the culture and history.

Italy was just one of those places we know we will go to again and again. But alas, our time here is up, and we are off to Athens for a brief stay, and head into Turkey! We are ready for the rest of the trip, and are so excited about traveling to the Middle East and experiencing a totally different culture (not to mention some wonderfully spicy food). Talk to you soon!!!
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