Italy

Italy...Video Montage.

Today's post is short and sweet. It's hard to believe it's been 2 months today since our final day in Rome when we marveled at the Colosseum and the ancient ruins and finished off the day with a fancy dinner of spaghetti carbonara, mushroom risotto, and veal with prosciutto. I know nobody else cares as much about our travels as we do, but this blog is as much for my memories as anything else, so I wanted to post a little montage video we created from Go Pro footage we took on the trip. It's fun to remember...

Bella Roma

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Venice was floating opulence, the Cinque Terre was picturesque peacefulness, and Rome was epic history. Every street corner, lamp post, church, and water fountain seem to tell a tale in Rome. There are thousands of years of stories stamped into the cobblestones and carved into the sculptures that line museums and streets. We arrived in Rome via train from the Cinque Terre which took us through Tuscany, and the views were lovely. Next time in Italy, we will add Tuscany to the list. As soon as we left the train station and walked to our hotel in Monti, one of Rome's old residential neighborhoods, I began to fall in love with Rome. Grandeur, importance, and beauty run down the streets like rainwater. Our first night there, we walked to the Pantheon, ordered rustic Roman pizza at a quiet restaurant in an old church, and explored the floodlit streets from the Spanish Steps to the Colosseum. I think the first night was the best part of our time in Rome. We relaxed and soaked in the splendor.

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In addition to undeniable importance, excitement, and romance, Rome also has the qualities that challenge every big city. Difficult, outdated public transportation, hoards of crowds, and heat that radiates off the stone and concrete. We found a peace and retreat away from the noise of the city along the Appian Way, Rome's ancient highway and an engineering marvel of its time. The early apostles would have traveled this way, and we visited one of the catacombs where early Christians were buried. The breeze flowed more freely along the Appian Way, and despite some frustration figuring out the bus system, it was worth the trip. We soaked in all the major sights of Rome. The Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel (which surprised us by how much we loved it), the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica, The Palatine Hill. We wandered around hipster Monti and shopped in vintage clothing stores and leather shops where I purchased an Italian leather bag. We listened to an evening jazz concert on a bench in the Vatican Museum courtyard, we celebrated our trip with a fancy dinner at Ristorante Fortunato on the Pantheon square. We walked for miles and tried to appreciate the history that was before us. We waited in line in the rain and waited for what seemed like forever at bus stops. We missed a concert hosted by the Pope because we didn't understand Italian. Every inconvenience and confusion was worth it for the Roman experience which is unlike any other city or culture. For 1000 years, Rome reigned as a world power, and that power is still palpable.

At the end of our few days in Rome, we reluctantly said goodbye to Italy. Jeremy is always such a good sport about going home; however, I tend to pout about it a bit. I'm so grateful for the adventure and for all that we saw, and I hope someday we can return. Ciao, Italia.

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Dreaming of the Cinque Terre...

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In between the hustle and bustle of city life in Venice and Rome, we traveled to the coast for a few days in the beautiful Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre means five lands, and it consists of five small towns built into the mountainside along the Meditteranean coast. Armed with castles originally designed to fend off pirates, the Cinque Terre is pretty much only accessible by train, boat, or hiking path. Until about a hundred years ago (before the train track was built), locals only traveled between towns on rocky mountain paths that are now available for hiking as part of the national park which envelops the region. The Cinque Terre was our favorite part of the trip. We stayed in beautiful Vernazza, the fourth of the five towns. It only has one main street running from the train station to the town square which is right up against the harbor. Hillside terraced vineyards line the mountainscapes surrounding the villages which are all painted in shades of pastels to make it easy for early fishermen to spot their homes upon returning from long days at sea. The advent of tourism in the 1970s hasn't squelched the small town charm that oozes from every cobblestone pathway, hillside church, and rocky harbor along the coast. The uphill hikes give way to the most beautiful vistas imaginable where brilliant aquamarine waters lap against the rocks. The sun sets every evening over the water; it is the most picturesque setting to enjoy fresh caught seafood, homemade pesto pasta, and a glass of local white wine.

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During the days, we hiked, swam, and meandered through watercolor streets. In the evenings, we ate amazing cuisine and watched sunsets hand-in-hand before returning to our private terrace with a view of Vernazza and the Meditteranean for late night talks and the sounds of music coming from restaurants below. It feels like an exaggeration, but it really was that wonderful.

When we first arrived in Vernazza, we had a little issue with our debit card, and we weren't able to withdraw any money to pay for lunch or for our cash only hotel room, and we had a rough few hours. In a larger city, we could have resolved it more quickly, but our banking options were limited, and we were absolutely so hungry and annoyed from our 6 hour train ride, but once we got past that, things went uphill quickly.

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On our anniversary evening, we had a wonderful dinner with the most beautiful sunset dinner view I have ever seen. That anniversary is going to be hard to beat. I think our favorite of the five towns was Manarola (below)....followed closely by our home base of Vernazza. Every town had its own charm and style. One night, I asked Jeremy what activities make him the happiest, and he said "just being chill and relaxed." That is so my husband, the chill and relaxed to my busy and active. But, the Cinque Terre taught me something about being chill and relaxed...and I think it's one of my favorite things now too.

Snapshots of Venice...

It's been a while since I've posted, and I have quite a few home updates in the queue, but I interrupt our regular programming to tell you a little bit about our trip to Italy! We got back on Sunday from the trip of a lifetime. Let's take a step back and talk about how we got to go on this adventure. Italy has been my dream trip for years, and we have often discussed when we could plan a trip there. In April, as we took a look at our vacation budget, I said, in jest, "Wouldn't it be fun if we could just go to Italy?" We both thought that wasn't in the cards for us, but we talked about maybe a five year anniversary trip in 2017. 

Two days later, Jeremy got an offer to do a job in Italy the weekend before our three year anniversary. God has been teaching me a lot about trusting him with my dreams, big and small, and this felt like a confirmation that he can surprise us with joys when we least expect it. God is good whether we got to go to Italy or not, but this was such an amazing testament to his goodness. With Jeremy's flight covered, we could afford the trip this year, and I set about planning the heck out of it. 

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After Jeremy finished his job outside Milan (a country music show at the Cowboys Guest Ranch...in Italy. Think bad American food, a wild west style petting zoo and saloon, and Italians line dancing in boots and cowboy hats. It was a bizarre 36 hours, but we were grateful for the opportunity and we met some great people), we left on our own adventures...starting in Venice. 

"Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little." - Italo Calvano, Invisible Cities 

There is no where else in the world like Venice. It's a city of romance built upon petrified wooden stakes driven into the lagoon centuries ago. Layers of history add character to the patina of the plaster covered brick buildings. Every canal has a story, and the charm of the city grows with every winding turn, every quaint bridge, and every ivy covered palace. The decadence of the early Venetians informed every architectural choice, and despite the obvious signs of age that time and flooding have worn on every corner of the city, the old grandeur is unmistakeable. The city is a floating engineering marvel and a time capsule.

Some of the charm is masked by the flood of tourists in the center of the city. I understand why thousands of people want to see Venice every day, but when we first arrived in the center of town along the walk from the Rialto bridge to St. Mark's Square, we were distracted from the romance of Venice by endless souvenir stands, hoards of confused and pushy tourists, and street salesmen around every corner trying desperately to sell us selfie sticks. After a couple hours of getting our bearings, and once the cruise ships pulled away from the docks at the end of the day, we roamed the streets away from the rush of the center of town, and we fell in love with the quiet romance that the Venetians created.

If I close my eyes I can still smell the salt water and hear the lap of the canal against the palaces and the sound of accordion music coming from gondolas just off the main drag. As our first real introduction to Italy, we reveled in the culture that was brimming around us. We tried Gelato for the first time, wandered aimlessly in the parts of the island that were nearly tourist-free, explored St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace, ate seafood fresh from the lagoon, savored seasonal fruit from the market outside our hotel, and attended a Baroque concert at the most famous theater in Venice, Gran Teatro la Fenice.

Other than a couple of tourist hot spots on the main square which we finished in a single morning, we did not have much of an agenda. We explored the narrow, winding streets and took comfort in knowing that we couldn't truly get lost without swimming off the island.

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My favorite memories of Venice happened after the sun set and the lights in the buildings started illuminating the rivers. Venice was such a romantic start to our journey.