If you haven’t checked them out already, you can find parts 1, 2, and 3 of my adventures this summer by clicking on the numbers. This final part is the culmination of my trip to Europe, having last been there three years ago. Having not been out of the country mostly due to the pandemic, I can confirm that finally being able to visit Italy is a dream come true in so many ways.
Warning: This post might be longer than usual and very picture-heavy. This is not an itinerary but if you’d like to know more, I’d be happy to share them with you!
After the wonderful time spent in France, the gang (my girlfriend, her sister, her sister’s boyfriend, and I) took the plane to Rome. For once in my life, that short flight was completed without a single hassle. Upon arriving there, we immediately took a train straight to Florence where we originally planned on staying for a couple of nights. Having only minimal knowledge of the city thanks to Assassin’s Creed, my time in Florence turned out quite fantastic. The most outstanding landmark was the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore located in the Piazza del Duomo. This cathedral looked like a castle straight out of a fantasy world, with baby dragons circling around it (they were actually pigeons). The second most notable stop there was the Uffizi Gallery with formidable pieces, including art by the great Botticelli. Seeing these for yourself was quite mesmerizing. Otherwise, the different places we explored and passed by were quite wonderful, from the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River to the Fountain of Neptune. We even had fun watching scammers, maybe a little too much, work their magic on innocent passersby, trying to get people to pay for their bracelets, belts, and whatever other contraptions they wanted to sell.
Once Florence was completed, we picked up a car that we could drop off in Rome and began our road trip down south, passing by Lucca, Pisa, and Siena, while always taking the scenic routes, allowing us to absorb the beautiful nature across the country. Of everything seen in these little cities, all beautiful and peaceful in their own ways, it was finally seeing the iconic Leaning Tower that really created a memory that I’ll keep with me forever. On top of that, we had reserved a night at the Podere la Ciabatta which offered a stunning view and a peaceful star-filled night. It’s also being able to see a herd of sheep with their harmonious little bells being led by a shepherd as the sun was setting that really soothed our adventurous spirits in ways that we didn’t expect. Before going to bed, we also capped the night by eating a traditional and sizzling bistecca alla fiorentina (see picture below). It might as well be the best steak I ever had in my life so far.
Afterward, we got back into our car and headed towards San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. Coincidentally, there was a medieval event happening in Monteriggioni, a walled town with watchtowers. This was a fun detour, although it was so hot that day. We still don’t understand how some people were disguised as fully-geared knights and whatnot. Once done, we headed to Rome where we dropped off our car and headed to my girlfriend’s and her sister’s dad’s place (which he lent us for the duration of the trip while he was in Lanciano; thank you!!!!). Our first day was quite wonderful, discovering the center of Rome with the Spanish Steps and la Villa Borghese. I haven’t mentioned it yet but it really applies to every day in Italy: we ate so many amazing dishes, from panini to pizza to pasta, I could barely ever say that I had a bad experience. Everything was awesome!
We then spent one day heading to Lanciano, at the Eastern end of Italy, where I finally got to meet my girlfriend’s father and other members of the extended family. While I might be trying to learn Italian and can understand a good chunk of it, my time there has confirmed that, depending on the dialect you have and the speed at which you speak, life ain’t easy for this little Canadian. I still had a great time during this detour and look forward to coming back as I continue to improve my language skills. Once back in Rome, we got back to exploring more of the iconic places around the city, from the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain. In fact, both of these landmarks were truly, absolutely, mind-boggling. Not only in terms of size but also in terms of details.
On one of our last days, we also went to visit Vatican City. I’m still shocked by the idea that there can even be a city-state within a city. Goes to show how much power the institution has had throughout history, huh? With that being said, the most memorable moment remains the Sistene Chapel where we got to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece. Yes, it really is a masterpiece. You’ll have neck pain trying to gaze at his work but it’ll be worth it. We finished off that experience by going to a nearby rooftop bar where we had a beautiful view of the Vatican too.
There were also so many impressive churches around Rome. Once you step foot into these places, you’re instantly stunned and visually overwhelmed by everything around you. The ceilings are always high, there’s gold everywhere, and there’s an insane amount of detail too. But, man, Italy was such a beautiful and fun adventure. I’m beyond delighted to have finally discovered a portion of it and I already look forward to discovering more of the Northern and Southern ends of it in the years to come.
I also really need to make a special mention of their gelato. What they say about it is true. Trust me. It is godly. I’ve never had ice cream done so magnificently in my life. If you take something fruity, you’ll actually taste the fruit. There’s nothing artificial there. You’d conclude that you’re eating something healthy, I tell you. And the food there. Yes, I’ve already said how good their three P’s are but even their fried stuff with potato and mozzarella is mouth-watering. Honestly, I would just eat every minute of every day if I were living there.
And then it was time for me to go back home (girlfriend had to stay a couple of more days to stay with her parents and all). The flight back was the longest I’ve ever had to do so far and everything went down smoothly until the final 10 minutes of my flight. Holy moly. If you thought you knew what turbulence was like, think again. I was convinced we were going to die, that we’d have to jump off mid-flight with parachutes or something, that it was the end of the world (my world, at least). I didn’t even know what my final thoughts should be. I knew then that I had some thinking to do if things turned out ok. Anyway, I never felt more relieved to touch the ground in the end and survive this whole ordeal (of course, I still had to suffer through the luggage-hunting bit, which took a good hour before anyone of us could find our luggage).
And then I got my home. And to make it all feel even more like home, I went 200% Canadian and ate at our most Canadian destination, and then hit the bed. I know, it doesn’t compete with anything I ate so far throughout my vacation but it’s our comfort food. What can I say? 🙂