August 3 – 13, 2011
When I was eleven years old, I got the chance to take the trip of a lifetime: Italy. My family conquered several different areas of the country, ate our hearts out, and learned a lot about a culture very different from our own.
I personally enjoyed eating nothing but pasta and pizza for ten days straight, but I can still remember this vacation as one of my all-time favorites for many other reasons.
Days 1-2: Travel & the Trevi
We flew from Tampa to Detroit, then had an overnight flight to Rome. We landed the next day late morning and then drove with my grandparents to our hotel, which was just steps away from the Trevi Fountain. It was cool to stay in this area; it was always busy with tons of tourists.
After checking in, we had lunch at a nearby pizzeria and had a nice afternoon nap before dinner, where we ate at another pizzeria that was outdoors near the fountain and had a great time people-watching.
Later, we walked to the Pantheon and explored inside of it; it was built by the artist Rafael and I remember as a kid, being astounded at the sheer beauty of the architecture.
Day 3: Getting Lost at the Vatican
We packed our first official day in the city full of exciting activities! We woke up early for a breakfast smorgasbord at our hotel, then my dad and I took a cab to the Vatican.
Our driver accidentally dropped us off at the wrong location, so we got separated from the rest of our family, but it was all worth it when we snuck into the Vatican museum to find them and ended up skipping the two-hour line to go inside! I honestly still don’t know how that happened…
We then met our guide and began our walking tour to learn the history and culture of the Vatican. Some of my favorite areas were the tapestry gallery, statue hallway, and the pope’s original living quarters. I was also blown away by the Sistine Chapel – I remember how much the dark religious paintings freaked me out, though.
Afterward, we explored St. Peter’s Church, then walked around Vatican City to find a lunch spot. We ate outdoors and relaxed after four hours of walking around museums, which was lovely.
Later, after a nice dinner of pizza and pasta (again), we visited the Spanish Steps among tons of people gathered spending their summer night in the city.
Day 4: A Tour of History
We woke up just in time to get to our walking four-hour tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Titus Arch, Arch of Constantine, and Circus Maximus. It was really cool to see these areas where so many historic extreme sports had occurred. It felt surreal to actually be standing inside the Colosseum, so this day was one of my favorites on the trip.
Afterward, we had a picnic with sandwiches and fruit overlooking the Circus Maximus, then we headed to see the Basilica San Clemente, a church from the 16th century. I was wowed by the architecture again and I thought about how detail-oriented these artists had to be.
Before dinner, we rested before walking to Piazza Navona, a big town square in Rome with all kinds of businesses, from street vendors around Bernini’s fountain, to upscale pizzerias. We decided on an outdoor café for a casual dinner, then we had to stop for gelato on our way home.
Day 5: Traveling to Tuscany
On our fifth day, we woke up early, ate breakfast, then rented a car to leave Rome and make it to our next stop: Tuscany! Our road trip was super picturesque, as the rolling hills, orchards, and vineyards were literal eye candy.
We arrived at Bosco Della Spina, a large Tuscan guest-house resort built on top of a hill overlooking the valley – the view literally could not have been more gorgeous.
For the rest of the day, we checked out the resort, swam in the nice infinity pool, then had an outdoor dinner at the resort on the terrace to overlook the hills.
Day 6: First Time in Florence
This day was more casual, as we woke up, had a big breakfast at the hotel, then drove a van to Florence and walked around the Ponte Vecchio. We ate in a trattoria (tavern) for lunch and explored a bit, then drove back to Tuscany. For dinner, we ate a simple meal at the resort.
Day 7: Art, Art, and More Art
We woke up super early to spend a real day in Florence! By 6am, we were on the road, and just hours later, we were eating breakfast at a café overlooking the Arno River.
In the afternoon, we took a tour through the Uffizi Gallery, the Plaza Republica, and the Florence Cathedral, El Duomo. In El Duomo, we marveled at the intense, beautiful art that was modeled after Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
We then saw the Galleria dell'Accademia where the famous “David” sculpture stands – I remember being so impressed by the art and the talent of these renaissance artists.
For lunch, we ate at a small pizzeria, then began some afternoon shopping at the nearby open-air market. After some strong negotiating, my eleven-year-old self bought a leather wallet that I still use to this day.
After a long day, we left Florence and returned home to eat dinner at a restaurant in Murlo.
Day 8: Volterra
On our eighth day, we woke up early with high hopes of conquering as much of Tuscany as possible. After a large breakfast, we took a road trip to Volterra, and shortly after arriving, ate lunch in Piazza dei Priori, the town square.
In the afternoon, we visited the Etruscan Arch, Church of St. Michael’s, and Etruscan museum filled with artifacts from funeral urns, to bronze helmets and spears, and jewelry.
An hour later, we made our way home and, on our way back, stopped at a blackberry patch in the rolling Tuscan valleys and picked some fruits. For dinner, we ate at a hotel in the valley with a wonderful view overlooking giant sunflower fields and vineyards. Life can’t get much better than that, right?
Day 9: Pizza in Pisa!
We woke up and immediately began our two-hour drive to Pisa. We saw the Leaning Tower and took those ~notorious~ leaning tourist pictures, and even as a child, the leaning of the architecture gave me anxiety. Regardless, I was impressed!
Then, we walked around the rest of the courtyard to find the Pisa Cathedral, which was also stunning, and the architecture of the interior was even more incredible.
Eventually, we left Pisa and headed to Lucca, a nearby medieval town. The streets were narrow and it was strikingly different than the other more sophisticated towns we had visited previously. We saw the San Michele in Foro, a Roman basilica church, as well as a nearby old Roman amphitheater.
Day 10: The Best Road Trip Ever
We were very sad on our final day in Italy – after eating our last breakfast, we packed for the morning drive and set off.
On our way to our hotel in Rome, we stopped at the sight of an abandoned castle just off the road and decided to explore it. It was a beautiful piece of history that looked like it had been a bit restored, so it was amazing to experience.
Afterward, we traveled to the hilltop village of Montalcino, which was extremely picturesque, and we had a picnic with sandwiches in the shade of an old fortress. After lunch, we had our last victory gelato cup, then drove to the hotel. For dinner, we celebrated the wonderful trip with a grand meal, and flew home the next day.
I am so very grateful I was given the opportunity to go on this trip – we did everything I ever dreamed of for a first trip to Italy, and I am excited to return someday hopefully soon.
My favorite part was obviously the food, but the history and culture of the art really opened my eyes to how young America actually is. I also appreciated the strong sense of pride I felt from the country and its people – I surely don’t blame them!
One of my favorite parts of traveling is intaking a new culture and I could see how different America is from Europe. I love our country, but I gotta admit, eating pizza and pasta for every meal was sweeeeeeet.