Monday, October 26, 2015

Day 299: Ciao Italy

This morning we slept in a little bit and then ventured next door to get breakfast. We enjoyed scrambled eggs and cappuccino! 

After breakfast we did a bit more souvenir shopping and walked by the Trevi Fountain again. We purchased a photo that we liked and Caleb enjoyed getting a caricature done. 
We made it back to the apartment a little before two and finished packing up the final bit of our suitcases. We waited for our taxi and then made our way to the train station for our bus. It was madness, but we made it on. 

The bus was beyond hot. We thought it would be air conditioned because that was advertised, but there was a slightly cool breeze blowing from the vents. It was ridiculous but Maddie took a small nap and woke up once we arrived to the airport. 

We checked in earlier online, so we only had to check our bags. We were lucky as they took a few extra ones we had planned to carry on.  

We made it to the area by our gate and waited on our plane to arrive. We paid $2 extra per ticket to board first, so that was definitely worth it! 

We left Rome with temps in the 60-70 range only to get to Warsaw in the 40s. We got our luggage, purchased our bus tickets back to Warsaw and began the last few steps in our journey. 

Once we got to the house we got the suitcases put where they needed to be and I went to the grocery store. The house has bare bones when it comes to food, so I had to stock up just a little. 

While I was gone, Daniel got the kids squared away and ready for school tomorrow. We have to go to work, so it'll be a long Tuesday! 

We enjoyed Italy so much, but I'm sure everyone will enjoy the lighter day tomorrow. 

Day 298: Cruising Around Capri

This morning we woke up earlier than we had planned, but we met up with Nana and Poppy for some breakfast at the hotel. We enjoyed a lot of cappuccino and water, as well as some pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereal, and more. 

After breakfast we checked into our flight for tomorrow evening and decided to take a private tour around Capri before we had to leave. 
We grabbed sandwiches before boarding and sat around the back part of the boat as the tour began. We went to the blue grotto first, and we were the last ones admitted as the tide was getting too high. 
Our boat stopped in an area and we all transferred to a small row boat. The row boat had a guide and he strategically placed us around the boat. We all sat on the bottom of the boat and we had to lie as far down as we could so we could enter the tiny hole to the blue grotto. 
Once we entered the guide went in a circle for us to all see the magical blue water. It was amazing and the perfect shade of blue. It's something I've wanted to do since looking into Capri, so I'm glad I can now say I've done it. 
After the blue grotto we continued around the island of Capri taking in all of its beauty. The scenery was beautiful. We also saw the green grotto and the coral grotto (where the coral is orange along the bottom of the waterline). 
I was so happy to see the ocean and to also be on a boat. It's been too long for both of those things! We eventually enjoyed our sandwiches on the front of the boat along with our drinks. 
We had a fantastic time and I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend 2 hours. 

When we got off the boat we made our way to the bathroom and I walked down to the tiny sand area. There, I found a ton of sea glass and got as much as I could as Maddie screamed for her Jessie. 
We changed our ferry tickets to an earlier time and left Capri to tour Naples and have pizza since that is where it was created. When we arrived in Naples, we saw the hop on/off bus but it was only open for one more hour, so it wasn't worth it. We decided to sit down and enjoy some pizza. The pizza was okay, and the service was crappy. To say the least, this wasn't our favorite stop. 
We got a taxi and had him take us all to the train station. We arrived and was welcomed by a lady screaming on the side walk. We made our way in and attempted to change our tickets to an earlier time, but we had no luck. So, we sat on guard with our bags in one of the coffee shops and waited on 2 hours to pass by. 

We eventually made our way to our train and rode an hour back to Rome. We finally made it to our apartment and got the suitcases we had stored while we were gone. Nothing like getting 6 suitcases up a 1 person elevator to the 5th floor. 

We got settled, all checked in, and then gave the kids baths and sent them to bed. The adults joined right behind them as we were all exhausted! 

We have one more afternoon in Rome, and then we end our Italy journey and head back to Warsaw. 

Day 297: Pompeii and Capri

This morning we left Rome early. We got a little mixed up in the train station, but finally found our way. We took the train from Rome to Naples. We then switched to a smaller and scarier train towards Pompeii. It was PACKED! I cannot express how crazy everyone was, but Daniel rode for at least 15 minutes with a backpack holding a baby in his face. It was super tight!  

When we arrived to Pompeii we got off the train and purchased tickets to walk through and explore Pompeii and to also have the audio headsets. I had no idea Pompeii was so large! We were in there forever (or so it seemed). 

The weather couldn't have been better. We were hot in the sunshine and definitely got our workout in. Maddie fell asleep on me so I was carrying her as I walked up and down numerous rocks. 
We saw a lot of the ruins and also found the exhibit where the bodies caught in the volcanic ash lie. Some of the bodies found from the Pompeii tragedy were put in cast form. The bodies were found and the plaster was poured, keeping the details of the deceased in tact. This was incredibly moving and sad. There was one cast with two small children. To imagine something so tragic is nearly impossible. 
After we found our way out of the maze called Pompeii, we boarded our raggedy train to Sorrento. We ate a sandwich on the way, and that was a challenge all in itself. When we got off at Sorrento, we only had two suitcases (praise the Lord). We were gracious enough to have found a solution with leaving them in Rome. We decided to walk from the train station to the ferry because it was approximately 5 minutes away. The 5 minutes included steep staircases down narrow walkways. 
Sorrento looked like an amazing little town but we were all done when we arrived. We wanted to get where we were going and unload everything. We finally made it to the port and purchased the first ticket leaving for Capri. We then boarded our ferry and loved that there wasn't many people on board with us. We were able to walk around and see the beautiful scenery. 
When we arrived to Capri we took the vehicular to the top. We found market square and then made our way to our hotel. 

We checked in and rested for about an hour as restaurants don't open until 7:30pm. We left around 7 to tour some of the city before enjoying the local cuisine. 
After dinner we ate some gelato and enjoyed a glass of wine at the hotel's bar area. Maddie made a new friend who was learning English, so they colored for a little while. We soon called it a night and planned for a late breakfast tomorrow. We get to turn the clocks back tonight so we get an extra hour of sleep! 


Day 296: Exploring Rome

This morning we woke up and ate a quick breakfast. We ate at the small coffee shop under our apartment. The adults enjoyed croissants and cappuccino and the kids split a ham and cheese sandwich. 

We walked down to the Colosseum to meet up with our tour guide, Francesca. She was recommended to us by a good friend in Warsaw, so we were so happy to have her. 

We began at the Colosseum and heard all about its history. It was hard to imagine that it once stood the way described. It was one solid structure and the top would be covered when the gladiators fought. The top was made of cotton and took two days to raise in order for it to be covered. She explained where the materials came from and also where the people, including the Emperor, sat. 
Our next stop was the to the Trevi Fountain. We walked a few minutes and then arrived to it under renovation. It was being cleaned. Francesca also told us that the fountain brings in 700,000 Euro. She added that it's definitely a moneymaker! 
Once we left the fountain we walked over to the Pantheon. This building is still used as a church and continues to hold a regular mass.  It was an amazing site and the solid granite columns were huge! It was so hard to imagine how each building was built thousands of years ago! 
Finally, lunch! Francesca recommended a great pasta and pizza place, so we had both. She left to run a few errands and we devoured lunch. It was great and we left happy and full. 

Francesca returned and took us to The Vatican. On our walk there she explained that The Vatican is in a different country, Vatican City. When we entered we walked through the museum. It was amazing. We saw many sculptures and tapestries. We also enjoyed numerous wall paintings. 
This is just a small section of one of the ceilings. 
This map was hand painted onto the wall many, many years ago. 
This is a tapestry. It's Jesus after His crucifixion. 

To top it all off, we walked through and saw the Sistine Chapel. Prior to entering the tour guide mentioned how Michelangelo was asked by The Pope to create this masterpiece and how he declined as he said he was a sculptor not a painter. He was later given an ultimatum: paint the ceilings or go to prison. He obviously chose to paint, and he worked on it for four years. 

Michelangelo was told that he could not sign his work so he created a scene with his face in it. 

30 years later Michelangelo was asked to come back and paint one of the walls. He painted numerous scenes on the wall representing Christ, heaven, hell and more. As he worked one of the men (a banker) constantly critiqued the painting and such, so he placed the banker in hell with donkey ears (because he was an ass) and a serpent wrapped around his body biting his private. The story was quite intriguing and the art was amazing to see in person. 

After leaving this area we went into St. Peter's Basilica. It was such an amazing site and its larger than I could have ever imagined. The letters across the walls are approximately 9' tall and this cathedral is the largest in the world. It was an incredible site. We also bypassed the lines because we entered with a guide and also toured the other stuff first. 
We said ciao to Francesca and made our way to a shop to get gelato and a few souvenirs. It was nice! 

We sank into the chairs when we returned to the apartment. After a full day of touring and the busy metro to get us back, we were done! 

We sat around for a little while and then headed to get dinner. We sat down at a pizzeria, enjoyed some dinner and then went back and went to bed. It's was such an amazing tour and we cannot wait to see more of Italy tomorrow. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Day 295: Tuscany Farm Tours and More

This morning we woke up and watched the sunrise over the vineyard. Breakfast began at 8am so we got ready and made our way to eat. We enjoyed fresh eggs, bacon and fruit. Maddie and Caleb also enjoyed cereal and yogurt, which are favorites anywhere. 
After breakfast we ventured into the store and purchased a lot of goodies. However, shipping wine to Poland was incredibly expensive, so I had to settle on buying a few small bottles instead. 

We went on a vineyard tour shortly after we did our shopping and learned all about the vineyard, food, and what the process of making the wine and olive oil was. 
The vineyard (also a farm) contains over 3,000 olive trees. The olives are handpicked during harvest and then extra virgin olive oil is produced. The farm itself consists of roughly 250 acres and about 50 acres is used for the vineyards. Some of the grapes are handpicked for the reserved wines, but other grapes being used for house wines are picked by machines. 
We also met the cows that are raised for their beef and the kids were able to feed and pet them. We also learned of the different processes that the wine takes, which was very interesting. 
Once the tour was over, we walked back up to the main area and took many, many photos while we awaited our taxi. When we departed the vineyard we headed to San Gimignano and walked through some of the oldest skyscrapers in the world. We couldn't stay long, but we were there long enough to enjoy the award winning gelato that has recently won the title of the world's best. 
After the gelato and failed attempt to find a piece of artwork we lived, we boarded our bus back to Florence. We had to changeover at one station, but after that the ride was pretty seamless and we made our way back to Florence. 

We had about 4 hours to spare before we boarded our train to Rome so we found a place to sit for an afternoon lunch. We found a great spot on a side street and actually ran into some people from Poland and California. This made the 3rd couple we had met in Italy who was from Cali. 
After lunch we walked through various vendors looking at leather bags and ultimately seeking artwork and magnets. We lucked out on the magnets but we were unsuccessful with the rest. 

We eventually made our way back to the train station and took in the beauty of Bascilica di Santa Maria Novella from across the street. We then found a place to sit down inside the station where we could enjoy a cappuccino and await on our train. 
When we boarded the train we found our seats and got situated for the 1.5 hour ride. We then found our metro and made our way to the apartment. 
During our walk, we passed the coliseum and stopped to take in its beauty. It was huge! We walked about five minutes to our apartment.
Once we arrived, we received all of the information we thought we would need and got a few recommendations for our stay. The kids and I then took showers and got ready for bed. 

Overall, today has been amazing. We thoroughly enjoyed our vineyard experience and we cannot wait to see what Rome has in store for us.