Just got back from a long vacation in Italy, where we visited Rome, Venice, Florence, a few small coastal towns, and a Tuscan wine village.  All in all, it was pretty excellent.  Great weather the whole time, amazing sights both historic and modern, good food and wine, and impeccable planning by Wendy.  Here's a daily rundown, more for my records than anything else: 
  1. Long flight through Lisbon with lots of talkative Portuguese people.  Didn't sleep at all.  Came close to missing our connecting flight because of a long line for immigration and customs.  Short flight to Rome with kids kicking my seat, then a long bus ride to the train station, which was within walking distance of our hotel.  Would've been quicker if we didn't walk the wrong way at first.  Walked around Rome a little and saw some history, then stopped at a little pizza place where we got overcharged and lied to about portion sizes.  Back to the hotel room before 6pm for an early bedtime because we were both walking zombies.
  2. Got woken up early by the smell of fresh bread baking after sleeping for almost 13 hours, then had one of the best breakfasts of our lives, with ham and mozzarella on fresh bread and a cappuccino.  Took the subway to the Colosseum and walked around the surrounding area for several hours.  Stopped for lunch at a pizza place with natural vine covering, and had our first Italian table wine.  Took another subway to the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.  Stopped off for a nice slow sidewalk dinner and polished off a liter of wine.
  3. The Rome transit workers went on strike, so we had to buy a ticket on a tour bus in order to get to Vatican city.  We had a scheduled time and were quite late, but oddly enough the ticket checker didn't care.  We walked around the Sistine Chapel but avoided St. Peter's Basilica because of the line.  Hopped the tour bus to the Pantheon (again) and walked over to Piazza Navona.  Had trouble but eventually got the tour bus back home before going to the Spanish Steps and grabbing a quick bite to eat.
  4. Took the train to Riomaggiore after stopping at our favorite breakfast joint one last time.  Walked around town while waiting for our hotel room to be ready.  Turns out it was on the third floor up quite a few sets of stairs.  Walked down to the "beach" which had rocks of various sizes, before eventually just jumping off some big rocks into the marina, which felt quite nice.  Looked into taking a ferry ride but were told they weren't selling any more round trip tickets because the boat might not come back due to rough weather.  Finished the night with some fresh seafood and local wine, before saying hi to some cats on the way back to our room.
  5. Had some breakfast before hiking uphill to the next town over.  Walked through vineyards and family farms growing figs and olives.  Decided to keep walking through the woods to the following town, passing by a helicopter rescue along the way.  Silly tourists and their inadequate footwear.  Hopped a train to the following town, where we had a huge early dinner after about 4-5 miles of hiking.  Finally took the ferry back to our hotel's town, which dangerously docked near some rocks in choppy water.  Loading and unloading was worth the price of the ferry.  Ended the night with some gelato and a sunset.
  6. Almost missed our train to Venice but caught it after a little uphill running in sandals.  The four hour train ride really wasn't all that bad, since it was broken up by stops.  Arrived in Venice, where we sweated our way on the ferry and to our hotel room.  After cleaning up, rode the ferry around while listening to an audio tour.  Stopped at Piazza San Marco and interacted with some pigeons.  Ate dinner at a wine bar before navigating the maze-like streets back to our hotel.
  7. Toured around Piazza San Marco, walking through Basilico San Marco and going to the top of the Campanile.  Continued using our unlimited ferry ticket and stopped off at several places, including Rialto (where we had really expensive pizza), Santa Maria della Salute (which had nice, cool marble steps that were great for lounging on), and Arsenale.  Made an impromptu stop at a street market before getting some dinner at a nice little place where we bought our first bottle of wine for the trek home.
  8. Caught an early train to Florence, where we dropped our bags at our hotel and then walked around town a little.  Went back to our hotel to get picked up for a wine tour, which stopped at Tenuta Torciano and Fattoria Sant'Appiano in Tuscany before an impromptu stop at a local wine festival.
  9. Walked around Florence some more.  Climbed the steps to the top of the Duomo, walked through several street markets, crossed the river on Monte Vecchio to see Palazzo Pitti, saw some statues in the Piazza della Signoria, and ate lunch in the Piazza della Repubblica.  Ended the day with some gelato in front of the Santa Maria Novella.
  10. Took a morning train to Siena, where we walked to the Piazza del Campo and the Duomo.  We were feeling tired from a week and a half of touring and traveling, so we took the train back to Florence and then to Rome, where we checked into our nice hotel and had dinner.
  11. Flew back home through Lisbon and greeted our house full of pets.

[gallery /img/2011/09/italy01.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy01-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Wendy towers over a typical tiny European car.:::/img/2011/09/italy02.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy02-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Colosseum.:::/img/2011/09/italy03.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy03-150x150.jpg:::Rome - A statue with a very chiseled butt.  He must work out.:::/img/2011/09/italy04.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy04-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Ceiling of the Victor Emmanuel Monument.:::/img/2011/09/italy05.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy05-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Corner of the Victor Emmanuel Monument.:::/img/2011/09/italy06.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy06-150x150.jpg:::Rome - A hollow cross.:::/img/2011/09/italy07.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy07-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Ceiling of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven.:::/img/2011/09/italy08.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy08-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Trajan's Column.:::/img/2011/09/italy09.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy09-150x150.jpg:::Rome - SPQR stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus, or the Senate and People of Rome.:::/img/2011/09/italy10.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy10-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Arch of Septimius Severus.:::/img/2011/09/italy11.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy11-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Temple of Saturn.:::/img/2011/09/italy12.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy12-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Inside the Colosseum.:::/img/2011/09/italy13.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy13-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Colosseum cat.  Napping there since gladiator days.:::/img/2011/09/italy14.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy14-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Alleyway restaurant.:::/img/2011/09/italy15.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy15-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Pantheon.:::/img/2011/09/italy16.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy16-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Breakfast of champions:  ham and mozzarella panini, croissant, cappuccino.:::/img/2011/09/italy17.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy17-150x150.jpg:::Vatican City - Popes and pillars.:::/img/2011/09/italy18.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy18-150x150.jpg:::Vatican City - Ceiling full of artwork.:::/img/2011/09/italy19.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy19-150x150.jpg:::Vatican City - Ceiling full of frescoes.:::/img/2011/09/italy20.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy20-150x150.jpg:::Vatican City - Obelisk.:::/img/2011/09/italy21.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy21-150x150.jpg:::Rome - Spanish Steps.:::/img/2011/09/italy22.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy22-150x150.jpg:::Riomaggiore - Colorful houses.:::/img/2011/09/italy23.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy23-150x150.jpg:::Riomaggiore - Boats and the harbor.:::/img/2011/09/italy24.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy24-150x150.jpg:::Riomaggiore - Colorful houses on a cliff.:::/img/2011/09/italy25.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy25-150x150.jpg:::Riomaggiore - Hiking to the next town.:::/img/2011/09/italy26.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy26-150x150.jpg:::Riomaggiore - Hiking through terraced vineyards.:::/img/2011/09/italy27.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy27-150x150.jpg:::Riomaggiore - Steep hills growing grapes and olives.:::/img/2011/09/italy28.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy28-150x150.jpg:::Venice - Wendy feeds some pigeons, which we later found out was illegal.  Oops.:::/img/2011/09/italy29.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy29-150x150.jpg:::Venice - A typical tiny alley.:::/img/2011/09/italy30.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy30-150x150.jpg:::Venice - Classy wooden boats.:::/img/2011/09/italy31.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy31-150x150.jpg:::Venice - Looking down on Piazza San Marco from atop the Campanile.:::/img/2011/09/italy32.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy32-150x150.jpg:::Venice - Colorful buildings and sidewalk restaurants.:::/img/2011/09/italy33.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy33-150x150.jpg:::Venice - The napkin matches the view!:::/img/2011/09/italy34.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy34-150x150.jpg:::Venice - Boats and buildings.:::/img/2011/09/italy35.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy35-150x150.jpg:::Florence - Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.:::/img/2011/09/italy36.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy36-150x150.jpg:::Florence - After climbing the Duomo.:::/img/2011/09/italy37.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy37-150x150.jpg:::Florence - Piazza della Repubblica.:::/img/2011/09/italy38.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy38-150x150.jpg:::Florence - A classy red Vespa.:::/img/2011/09/italy39.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy39-150x150.jpg:::Florence - Outdoor market.:::/img/2011/09/italy40.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy40-150x150.jpg:::Florence - View of the river from the Ponte Vecchio.:::/img/2011/09/italy41.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy41-150x150.jpg:::Siena - Palazzo Publico and Torre del Mangia.:::/img/2011/09/italy42.jpg:::/img/2011/09/italy42-150x150.jpg:::Siena - The main church.:::]