July 27, 2014

Family Vacation: 6 Hours in Florence

After Pisa and Rome, there was Florence….

I gotta say, this is one of my favorite places I've visited, even though we only spent a short time there. I have a long list of things I'd like to do in the city, so I know the Hubs and I will (hopefully) be spending a four-day weekend there at some point.

Florence is the home of Michelangelo's David. Unfortunately, the line was too long for us to see this beautiful sculpture. Next time, though! Instead, we wandered the streets, shopping and eating our way through town.

The scenery is beautiful. The Fam and I really enjoyed a few relaxing hours here, with nothing particular we had to do. Sometimes this is the best way to visit, don't you think? The next time I visit Florence, I'll take lots of notes and see everything I possible can, I promise. But this time was a laid back event that we all appreciated.

Have you visited Florence yourself? What are your recommendations on places to see and things to do?

I'll be back soon, with tales of our adventures in Paris. Until next time my friends, happy travels!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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July 21, 2014

Family Vacation: Rome

I'm back, ready to continue our journey through Italy… after a couple hours in Pisa, the Fam and I continued onward to the amazing city of Rome!

Hanging out in front of the Colosseum

Rome is quite the metropolitan area, and full of so much history. We definitely could have spent more time there. Everywhere you turn is a ruin of some sort. I think the Hubs and I will go back someday and explore more, but we were happy to see the major sights on this trip. Sadly, the tour we were on wasn't good at all (review coming soon!), but we broke away and enjoyed our time anyway.

The Pantheon
Being silly, and enjoying some gelato!

I find the Italian people as a whole to be extremely friendly. People were willing to help and offer assistance more than once. Our servers at restaurants were especially entertaining. One of them even FaceTimed with us as we chatted with family back in the States!

Joking with our server at dinner
A fitting end to our fun dinner 

The one major concern in Rome is the pickpockets. At least 3 times we were warned by the police to keep extra watch on our purses, etc. I highly recommend using an anti-theft bag, or a waist wallet. Often, the metro is so crowded you will literally be nose-to-nose with other passengers. This is a prime opportunity for pickpockets to grab your stuff. My mum had an issue at one of the basilicas… a small child attempted to unlatch her bag and put his hand in. Luckily, she had an anti-theft purse and he was unable to get in. So be aware, my friends!

Inside the Colosseum

Here are my best travel tips for Rome, with the little bit of experience I now have:

1. Use the metro - Take a little time before your trip, and study the metro map. The system is fairly simple to understand, and it is inexpensive. And it will save your feet a lot of hurt! Rome is quite large, and especially hot during the summer months. Make the most of your time by getting around quickly.

2. Buy advance tickets - The lines at most of the monuments and tourist attractions are outrageous. Buy your tickets in advance if you can, especially for places like the Vatican and the Colosseum. Also, many of these attractions have free entrance on the first Sunday of the month. We visited the Colosseum this way, arriving early and entering for free as soon as they opened. You can save a bit of money this way, if you don't mind waiting in line.

Outside the vatican

3. Appropriate dress - Though Rome is quite hot in the summer, many of the sites (such as the Sistine Chapel) require a dress code for entry. Research the sites you wish to visit, and plan ahead for this. It would be awful to arrive, tickets in hand, yet be unable to visit.

4. Shop for groceries - Rome is a very expensive city to visit. If you can, I highly recommend shopping for groceries. You don't need a full-size kitchen to do this. Although we stayed at a hotel, our room had a refrigerator. We purchased bottled water, yogurt, fruit, sliced meats and cheese, and bread. We tried to eat breakfast in our room, enjoy a large meal late in the afternoon, and then snack on our other purchases at night. This can save you a lot of money!

5. No photos - There are several places where you are not allowed to take photos, including the Sistine Chapel. Circumvent these rules at your own risk. Especially inside certain areas of the Vatican, the security guards have no problem confiscating your equipment and it will likely not be returned. You've been warned.

One of many beautiful ceilings inside
the Vatican… (don't worry, I was
allowed to take pictures in this area!)

6. Gladiators do not take pictures for free - Outside the Colosseum are gladiators, ready and waiting to pose for pictures. But these are not free! Ask first how much the price will be. If you take the photo without discussion, you are then obligated to pay whatever they ask.

7. Don't take the roses - Particularly around the Spanish Steps, people try handing you roses. The minute you take it, you've bought it. Don't be fooled by their comments, like: "Oh, just for picture. Take for the picture". As you can see, The Kid wound up overloaded with roses, even though we thought we knew better!


The next time I visit this city, I'll add more tips. Our time there was so short, I didn't learn as much as I hoped. If you've visited other areas of Italy, expect Rome to be different. I've seen many smaller towns, so Rome was a little overwhelming at first. It's quite a bit larger than I expected, crowded, and comes with the usual large city issues. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely worth seeing, but it is best to be prepared.

Until next time my friends, happy travels!

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July 20, 2014

Family Vacation: Two Hours in Pisa

Hi friends! I hope you've been keeping up on the Army Life Facebook page for the last few weeks, because you know I haven't been posting much here. Don't worry, I still love you! I've just been jetting around Europe with The Fam. My mum and kid sis are visiting from the States, and I couldn't wait to show them Europe.

We started off slow, visiting a few places nearby in Germany like the Dachau concentration camp. From there, we booked a trip with a local company to Pisa, Rome, and Florence. My review of the company will be coming later this week, but needless to say… the company was awful. I'm hoping to have a response from them soon, and then I'll have a complete review.

Despite the issues on the trip, we didn't let that get us down! I wanted to share some of the fun we had with you…

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Our bus stopped first in Pisa, home of the Leaning Tower. We only had two hours in this quaint town, so no time to hike the top of the tower. Next time, maybe! We wandered, took our photos, and snagged a quick lunch from a panini truck. On the walk back, we stumbled across the coolest little produce stand where we purchased the best grapes I've ever eaten, seriously.

Igor Mitoraj, Angels exhibition

Proof, we were there! 

Enjoying each other's company

The awesome grape stand, best I have ever
tasted. And such a cool set-up too! 

I'll be back soon with some pictures and tales from the next leg of our trip, Rome! Until then my friends, happy travels…

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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