View from the road

The final stop on our Italy trip was the Amalfi Coast. A driver picked us up in Pompeii and drove us to Sorrento. The drive to get there is stunning, along high cliffs, with sheer drops to the gorgeous Bay of Naples on the Mediterranean Sea. The road twists and turns a bit.


Sorrento is a very compact little town, also situated on the cliffs. The main section of town is the Piazza Tasso, around which shops and restaurants are clustered. You cannot see the water from the main part of town (except from one tiny viewing area). You can however walk to a park with a beautiful view.

Sorrento was a shopper’s heaven. Lots of interesting shops clustered in a small area. The

Piazza Tasso

shopping area is pedestrian only on narrow cobblestone streets. They sell lemon products (including limoncello), custom-made sandals, lots of leather bags, and souvenirs. The town feels very quaint and comfortable. I felt very comfortable here. It’s nice to have everything within walking distance.

Teatro Tasso

One evening we went to see Teatro Tasso, a musical revue that highlights the songs and dances of the region. It ended up being rather bad community theater, but we thoroughly enjoyed watching one of the guitar players on stage who rolled his eyes, talked to his fellow musicians, laughed at

Teatro Tasso

the dancers, and made faces at the tech crew. He was the highlight of the night.

I had Rick Steve’s book, which promised a discount if you showed the book when you bought tickets. The woman at the desk informed us they limited that discount to two people (the book did not say this). My husband was able to convince her to give us the discount for all four! They serve complimentary drinks on the terrace beforehand (and you can see the water from here, which is beautiful at night). It was something to do in the evening, but honestly it was a bit cheesy.

Swimming in the Mediterranean

Narrow streets of Sorrento

The highlight of our stay in Sorrento was our morning at the beach. We took a taxi down the cliffs to Marina Grande (it wasn’t too far distance-wise, but the cliffs are very steep and it would have been many, many stairs), a tiny little harbor area with a miniscule sand beach. We rented chairs and umbrellas and swam in the Mediterranean, with Mount Vesuvius behind us. The water was warm, the sun was hot, and it was a wonderful interlude.

The Blue Grotto

We took a guided tour to the island of Capri. We were picked up by bus at our hotel and driven to the ferry station (which is again, down the cliffs at the edge of the water). We took the ferry to the island of Capri. Upon arriving on Capri, we spent a few brief moments in the harbor area (where there are a handful of fairly junky souvenir shops) before getting on a small boat with our group to go to the Blue Grotto.

Swimming with Vesuvius

The Blue Grotto was on my list of top sights in Italy, so we were thrilled to go. Our boat drove us around the coast of the beautiful island with its soaring cliffs. Even more stunning though was the water. It was an incredible deep, sapphire blue and very, very clear. I later read that there are no phytoplantkton in the Mediterranean, giving it this color and clarity.

Our boat took us to a grouping of boats just waiting offshore. Through the crowd of boats, you could see a tiny little opening in the rock. This was the entrance to the Blue Grotto. You wait your turn (we waited about half an hour) and a rowboat comes next to your boat. 4 people climb in and you sit on the bottom of the boat. You are rowed over to the opening and then you all lie down or at least bend forward with your head down. The driver waits in front of the opening until there is a break between waves and he grabs hold of some chains that are strung along the top of the opening and pulls the boat through the incredibly tiny hole.

It is absolutely terrifying for a couple of seconds. As you are waiting to go in,you think the


boat can never fit through the hole, you will surely be decapitated, and I was also getting a bit claustrophobic, thinking about going through that tiny hole into a cave.

Let me assure you, it is absolutely worth it and if you are there, you must go. The opening is not deep (width-wise) at all and you are through it in a second. The boat is pulled through and you enter this magical circular cave with a high roof and magical, glowing blue water. I have never seen water this color in my entire life. The boat captain told us it is because of the minerals in the rocks under the water.

The entrance to the Blue Grotto

You are rowed around the cave twice, and the rowers are singing the entire time (we were treated to “Volare”). There is a little staircase carved into the rocks on one side, made by the Romans apparently, which is no longer used. The moments you are inside are like something on another planet. The cave glows, the water is alive, and you are a part of it.

Exiting is not nearly as scary as entering since you know you will fit and before you know it,you are back on your boat. But first, your row boat captain will hit you up for a huge tip. Our tour had already paid our boat fare and our guide warned us they would ask for a tip. My husband gave him 5 Euros and he complained it was not enough for a bottle of wine. We heard other people having the same problem. They are pushy and rude, so be prepared to deal with this if you go.

The magic of the Blue Grotto


Our tour then took us back to the harbor then by van up to the town of Anacapri at the top of the island. You go up terrifyingly winding roads on the very edge of the cliff, certain that you are inches away from falling all the way down (our guide told us this is called the Mama Mia Parkway).There are buses coming up and going down and they pass within millimeters of each other on this incredibly narrow road. At some points, they cannot pass, so one bus must back up.

Anacapri has a small shopping area and a beautiful sccenic viewing area (unfortunately it was a bit misty when we were there). There was not a lot to do and I’m told the town of Capri (farther down the island) is much better for shopping. There is a chair lift from Anacapri that will take you up to the

The view from Anacapri

very top of the island, but we didn’t do that. Other members of our group did and reported that it was very, very hot on the unshaded chair lift, but once you got to the top, the view was spectacular. There is also an old church in town which can be toured.

I would have loved to have seen more of the Amalfi Coast, but enjoyed the parts we did see very much.

The final stop on our Italy trip was the Amalfi Coast. A driver picked us up in Pompeii and drove us to Sorrento. The drive to get there is stunning, along high cliffs, with sheer drops to the gorgeous Bay of Naples on the Mediterranean Sea. The road twists and turns a bit. Sorrento Sorrento … Read more

I’ve been telling you all about the amazing things we ate and did in Italy. Now it’s time that I come clean and tell you about the things I didn’t like.


Water everywhere, but none in restaurants!

Italian cities are filled with beautiful fountains that dispense clean, fresh, cool, drinking water. You carry a water bottle with you and fill it up as you go through the city. This is a lovely benefit. But if water is so fresh, clean, and accessible why couldn’t we get a glass of tap water in a single restaurant? They claim not to have any available. Which is a lie. They just plan on your $3 bottle of mineral water as part of the meal. And we always had to order 2-3 per meal.

When you do order water, they will pour no more than 2 inches in each glass. I think they assume you’ll be hydrating with wine.


Water and drinks are served without ice. There are no ice buckets or ice machines in hotels. I was so tired of drinking lukewarm beverages. Even the water sold in stores is not cold. One day we bought a bottle of water from a street vendor before heading into the Roman Forum and it had been frozen, so it was blissfully cold. I have never tasted anything so delicious in my life. This was the only cold beverage we had.

The Heat

Yes, we went in late July-early August. We didn’t have a choice with our kids’ school and activity schedules, so we ended up there in the hottest time of the year. It was 99 degrees. The coolest it got was 92 I think. It was uncomfortably hot every single day. There was never a cloud in the sky. There was not a drop of rain. There was no wind, but a few breezes when we were lucky.  I don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much in my life. When we got to Sorrento, it was 86% humidity.

The Air Conditioning

I insisted on hotels with air conditioning. We were able to get the rooms just about comfortable by putting the AC on high all day, every day. The AC in stores and restaurants was a joke. Many places had signs up saying they had it, but they leave the doors open! So even if you dined or shopped somewhere that was air conditioned, you were always in a light sweat. I wore a money belt and when I took it off at the end of the day, the Euros in it were sopping wet.

The Pushiness

While the people in Italy were overwhelmingly friendly and kind to us, once we got south of Rome, it changed. Here everyone was trying to upsell us. My daughter ordered a glass of wine and the waiter wanted her to buy a half bottle. We took a cab to a nearby beach and the driver wanted to take us to a town half an hour away then on a tour down the coast. I ordered a fish dish and the waiter wanted me to order it for two people. I picked out a few things in a shop and the saleswoman took me downstairs and tried to sell me $3000 pieces of furniture. It was constant and unrelenting and tiring.

When we went to the Blue Grotto, we knew the rowboat man would expect a tip, so we gave him one and then he told us it was not enough and demanded more.


Once you figure out that you can walk into any bar (which is really a cafe) and use their bathroom, you aren’t so reliant on public bathrooms, which are few and far between. Most public bathrooms are not free and some even require exact change. There were some very unpleasant bathrooms. One restaurant on Murano had what was really a hole in the ground with a very low bowl over it. If you needed to sit, you squatted with your knees in your face. None of the toilets had the same flushing mechanism. Many had a push button on the wall. One had a foot pedal. I was always hunting around, looking for the button and it was always in a different shape or location.

It also seemed that the bathrooms in museums and other attractions were always in the basement!


We did not enjoy our airport experiences! At the Naples airport, after going through security I still had to show a boarding pass to be allowed to buy a pack of gum. When it was time to board our plane, they had us get on a standing only bus which literally drove 20 feet to the steps to the plane. Then they told half of us to board from the back, but didn’t do so by seating assignment, so the aisles were full of people trying to get past each other. The Rome airport was insanity. There was a holding area for our gate with 8 seats and 300 people. They roped everyone inside the area, then told them to come out and line up. There was no line, just people pushing. It took an hour to board the plane and they did so in no order at all.


There’s nowhere to sit in Italy. I kid you not. They do not have benches in piazzas, museums, churches, towns, at train stations, in airports, at ferry stations or ANYWHERE.  If you spend the day walking around the city, you end up sitting on tiny little shop window sills or dirty curbs because you are so completely desperate to get off your feet.

Getting the Bill

I understand that meals are very different in Italy, but we got so tired of trying to get the bill every night. You have to ask for it because it is never brought to you. And then you wait and wait and wait for it to come. Most restaurants in Italy have handheld credit card swipe machines they bring to the table, so that makes paying easier, however tipping is another issue. Many places, particularly in the north, add a service charge to the bill, so tip is included. In the south though, they do not. And you cannot add a tip to the bill when you charge. So you have to plan to be able to tip in cash.


Here at home, we think of Italian bread as quite delicious. We found that each city we went to seemed to serve one kind of bread with dinner no matter where we ate. In Venice, it was rolls. Elsewhere it was sliced bread. None of it excited me – the bread I’ve had at home is much better. And none of it was served with butter or olive oil. Once only we had a bottle of olive oil and a plate for dipping come with it, but that was it.

The Wardrobe

Before we went, I read everything and talked to a lot of people. EVERYONE told me women do not wear shorts in Italy. NEVER EVER EVER. Men don’t either, I was told. Everyone told me to bring capri pants and skirts, and pants for the men. This advice was completely 100% wrong. Most of our female guides wore shorts. Most of the people (Italians and tourists I saw on the streets were wearing shorts. We were so, so HOT and knowing we could have been in shorts made us very cranky! Yes, there is a requirement that shoulders and knees be covered in churches, but honestly, I found it was not enforced most of the time and certainly not at all for men! There were men in shorts in the Vatican, the Duomo, and San Marco. No one cared. Women in tank tops were told to buy scarves to cover their shoulders, but I saw many women in short skirts in churches and no one had a problem with this. Next time, I would bring shorts and only wear capris for the churches to be safe. I can certainly believe that when it is not 99 degrees Italian women are not wearing shorts, but at the height of the summer, we were the ones sticking out like sore thumbs in our long clothing. Next time, I will pack what makes me comfortable and not worry about trying to fit in.

No Tourism Info

Anywhere you go in the US or Canada, you will find tons of tourism brochures, maps, and flyers in restaurants, shops, hotels, airports, etc. And you will frequently find tourism booths in busy areas. Italy has none of this. The only map we got for free was the one our hotel gave us in each city. If you didn’t know what you wanted to see and do before you got there, there were no helpful brochures to give you ideas. I think you could literally drop out of the sky into any major US area without a lick of planning and be able to get your hands on all the info you needed within 10 minutes. Maybe the Italians assume people are using the internet for info? I don’t know, but I missed having all those great suggestions. I almost always find something I didn’t know about when I pick up free brochures.

Now that you’ve read my list of complaints, I have to tell you they are minor ones and although the heat made the trip difficult and some of the way things were done are not what we are accustomed to, we really had the time of our lives!

I’ve been telling you all about the amazing things we ate and did in Italy. Now it’s time that I come clean and tell you about the things I didn’t like. Water Italian cities are filled with beautiful fountains that dispense clean, fresh, cool, drinking water. You carry a water bottle with you and fill … Read more

Inside the villa

During our trip to Italy, we spent a few hours in Pompeii. If you’re in Italy, this is a must-see. I took Latin in high school, so I knew a lot about Pompeii, but this is definitely one of those places that must be seen to be understood and appreciated. Pompeii was a Roman city that was buried when Mount Vesuvius exploded in 79 AD. The city was completely taken by surprise and the citizens died from the poison gas. The city was literally buried in ash, which completely preserved it in an intact state in the middle of daily life. Excavations are still taking place and there is still much of the city that has not been uncovered.

You will not believe the size of the city. This was a large, independent,

Stepping stones across the road

metropolis. It is a huge area. We were there for two hours and saw only a fraction of it.

The Highlights

I was blown away by how real this made the Romans feel to me. You walk their streets, peer into their shops and walk through their homes. We had a private guide for our visit, who was able to point things out and show us details we would have missed. You are walking through a city that is just missing most of its roofs. For me, there were three highlights:

  • The Baths. We visited a carefully preserved spa that had men’s and women’s locker

    Inside the baths

    rooms, baths, and steam rooms. The women’s side is preserved intact, so you can see the mosaics and finish work. The men’s side is taken apart so that you can see the clever duct work that moved the hot water and created steam. The baths were an important part of Roman life and until you walk through them and feel how carefully designed they were, you don’t really understand the lifestyle.

  • The whorehouse. This was completely legal and considered necessary.

    The menu

    Pompeii was a seaport so many sailors came into town seeking company. The whorehouse has stone beds and the walls have frescoes that are a menu of sorts, depicting the different acts available so that sailors could select their services even if there was a language barrier. Along the streets, there are carvings of male genitalia pointing the way so sailors could easily find their way to the house. This was one of the busiest spots on the tour and our private guide was able to get us in past the crowds. Before we went, she took me aside and asked if I was ok with going there, since our 14 year old son was along. I appreciated her asking, but had no problem with it.

  • The villa. In recent years a beautiful villa has been excavated and left open to the public so you can walk through the home and see the frescoes and mosaics and really feel what it is like to be inside a Roman home, which is very different from our homes. This made the Romans come to life and was an experience of a lifetime.

Gladiator practice field

Other Sights

We also enjoyed seeing the gladiator training school. The gladiators lived in dorms and practiced on a practice field and in a small arena here before being sent to the Colosseum in Rome. It was fascinating to see the Colosseum in Rome then come here and see where they learned their skills.

I also loved the streets themselves. There is something amazing about walking down a street where Roman carts went before you. They also have stepping stones across the street to allow pedestrians to cross without getting wet or muddy. It was all very thought out and the streets were laid out like a grid.

We were also struck by the suburban strip mall feel to the main streets, where shop after

One of the residents who perished

shop is lined up. Our guide told us they had pocket doors on the shops, since the city was so tight. Those clever Romans.

I wish we had had time to go to the museum in Naples where most of the artifacts have been taken. Unfortunately, Pompeii is mostly just empty shells of buildings. We did see a few casts of people (my son was fascinated, I found them slightly horrifying). The actual body was essentially vaporized, leaving a cast behind.

Preparing for Your Visit

If you go:

  • Wear sneakers. The streets are cobblestone and there are hills.
  • Bring water. There are fountains throughout the city, but when we were there, they were not functioning.
  • Wear a hat. There is NO shade anywhere inside Pompeii.
  • Plan out your walk. If you are on your own, get a map and choose the highlights you want to see. You cannot see it all without dropping dead from exhaustion, so choose the highlights.
  • Allow lots of time. We were there for 2 hours and I wish we had had more time.

A Shopping Tip

I have one last tip for you about the area. Outside the gates of Pompeii there are tons of

The cameo-maker at work

tacky souvenir stalls (and they are really bad), but our guide steered us into a cameo shop. I would never have seen it.  If you are facing the entrance gate, it is on your right hand side in the building behind the outdoor restaurants. They claim to be a place where cameos are handmade and you are walked past an old man who is working, but it’s hard to believe he alone produces all the product they have there (I’m not questioning the handmade nature of the cameos, just that it is unlikely that one older man is making them all when they are selling many every day). There is a short video you can watch about how cameos are made (they are carved from shell commonly today, but used to be from stone and glass) if you’d like some history. Downstairs is the actual shop, with cases and cases of cameos. If you select a cameo they will not only size rings on the spot, but the artisan will sign the back of it and inscribe your initials onto the back. I thought the prices were reasonable and the quality was excellent.

During our trip to Italy, we spent a few hours in Pompeii. If you’re in Italy, this is a must-see. I took Latin in high school, so I knew a lot about Pompeii, but this is definitely one of those places that must be seen to be understood and appreciated. Pompeii was a Roman city … Read more

I’ve titled this post SPQR, which stands for Senātus Populusque Que Rōmānus (the Senate and people of Rome), and is an abbreviation you see on manholes all over Rome and which was used in ancient Rome. My husband and kids all bought t-shirts that say this. Rome was really about history for us and we really enjoyed this city immensely.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

We started our visit by walking to the Spanish Steps. They’re interesting, but really, it’s just a big bunch of steps (if you go, plan so that you emerge at the TOP of the steps and can walk down them. You will definitely enjoy your visit here more: this is what we did in a burst of genius because there are a LOT of steps). There is a lovely fountain in a piazza at the bottom of the steps that is a big tourist gathering place. If you go at night, beware of the aggressive vendors trying to sell roses. They were literally hitting my daughter with roses saying, “You are so special to me,” trying to get her to take one so we would have to pay for it. This is a lovely area though and a nice photo op. The streets surrounding this area had some shops and we stumbled upon one of the best restaurants of our entire trip in this area (coming soon in a post about the food on the trip!).

Trevi Fountain

We also visited the Trevi Fountain, which is within walking distance of the steps. This is a

Trevi Fountain

mob scene, particularly at the height of summer when we were there, but if you are patient, you can get a spot on the edge of the fountain where you can toss two coins in and take a nice picture. People tend to move in and out of this area pretty quickly, so even though it looked really crowded, we didn’t wait very long. While we were there, some star (athlete, movie star, we don’t know!), walked through the piazza, followed by screaming girls. It was quite a site!



While we were on our own, we went to the Pantheon, which is a beautiful round temple, originally Roman, and converted to Catholicism. The architecture was stunning, as was the scale of the building (we also found some great shopping nearby).

Capuchin Crypt

Beneath a church in Rome, there is a museum of artwork made of human bones. Can you tell I have a teenaged son? This was a must-see on our list. (photos were not allowed, so you can watch this video if you’d like to see it). This little unassuming church has a museum you pay to get into, filled with religious artifacts and some religious history. Underneath the church are rooms where the bones of monks are used to create designs and art. Each little “room” used a specific type of bone, so there was a femur room and a skull room, etc. The idea was to remind us all that we will all be reduced to bones one day. I found it to be quite creepy, but the rest of my family thought it was fascinating.

Bus Tour

We had not planned to take a bus tour of the city, but after we arrived and were blown away by the architecture we were driving past (not knowing what any of it was), we decided to pay for a hop-on-hop-off bus tour with a recorded message telling you what everything was. It helped us get our bearings in the city and it identified a few buildings, but overall, it was a waste of time and I wouldn’t recommend it. The headsets did not work sometimes and it seemed they spent a lot of time giving too many details about some buildings and then not identifying other places we were passing by. So, I don’t recommend the Trambus for this, unfortunately.

Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini

Another bit of the trip that was lacking was this new museum that seems to be run by the tourism department for this region of the country. It wasn’t in any of my guidebooks and I happened upon a mention of it on TripAdvisor.  The web site is a bit deceiving. The general idea was supposed to be this: they found an actual Roman villa (home) underneath another building and it was pretty well preserved. They excavated it and you get to go in and using virtual technology, they show you how the rooms used to look, so you can experience a real Roman home. That’s what it was supposed to be. In actuality, they built glass floors over some ruins. They shine lights on them and use lighting to complete some mosaics that are partially destroyed. It did not bring it to life for us very well at all. The tour lasted an hour and a half and we simply stood on glass floors the entire time (not a bench or chair in site at this place), until 15 minutes before the end, when we were shown a movie about a nearby monument that seemed completely unrelated. The tour didn’t make a lot of sense. If they had shown us a map or given us information about the layout of the home it would have made more sense. At this point, I just don’t recommend this museum.

The Vatican

St Peter’s Square

We took two guided tours that we greatly enjoyed. The first was of the Vatican Museums. We decided to go with this tour because it allowed us to skip the line to get into the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. It also took us to see some of the art in the Vatican, which frankly, we weren’t that interested in. I did enjoy having someone tell me what to look for when I was looking at the Sistine Chapel and in the Basilica.  Of all the art we saw, I enjoyed the tapestries and maps the most. A lot of it is a blur: it was incredibly hot and crowded in the museums and just keeping up with the guide was a challenge.

The Sistine Chapel was impressive, but was somehow smaller than we thought it would be. The room was packed with people. There were no signs directing people to be quiet, yet there were guards who would say “shhhh” and “silence!” occasionally – then the noise level would slowly build again until they would say it again. It seemed a bit silly. We were pleased to be able to see this important work of art. The Basilica was beautiful and I thought the Pieta was moving.

We did walk around the Vatican area and shopped and had lunch nearby. We saw lots of nuns, but only one priest in a cassock. The grounds of the Vatican looked gorgeous from what I saw of them and St. Peter’s Square was fun to see in person.

Ancient Rome


Our other guided tour was of ancient Rome. We started at the Collosseum. It may have been one of the most impressive things on the entire trip. It was fascinating to stand inside it, gaze down at the stage, and imagine the stadium filled with Romans, an emperor, and gladiators. To be in such a place with such a deep history was really a moment I won’t forget. And our guide allowed us to skip the line to get in, which was also terrific (he said people wait 2-3 hours often just to get inside). This was a not-to-be-missed stop in our trip.

The tour then took us into the Roman Forum, which is not as well-preserved at all. To walk

Roman Forum

down roads that the ancient Romans walked on was quite a feeling! We saw the tomb of Julius Caesar (which gave me chills, because he has always seemed like such a fictional person, but to feel his humanity was really something), the Arch of Constantine, and the remains of many buildings. It was a remarkable place to walk through. I took 4 years of Latin in high school and so did my daughter, and my son will also. Being able to walk through an ancient place that you learned about in school makes it so much more real and important.

Rome Overall

We really loved Rome. It had this great quality of delivering the unexpected. You would turn a corner and there would be ancient Roman ruins next to (and in some places actually built around) modern buildings. It had the feel of a very cosmopolitan city, yet it felt completely accessible (we felt this way about London too, perhaps because it is not filled with skyscrapers like American cities?). We found the people to be friendly and the streets to be very walkable. We loved the sense of history, coupled with the feeling of a very modern and with-it city.  I would have loved to see the Appian Way and to find more shopping, but we used our time well here. It was a beautiful city with a deep history that spoke to me.

Still to come: posts about Pompeii, Capri, Sorrento, FOOD, and hotels in Italy.


I’ve titled this post SPQR, which stands for Senātus Populusque Que Rōmānus (the Senate and people of Rome), and is an abbreviation you see on manholes all over Rome and which was used in ancient Rome. My husband and kids all bought t-shirts that say this. Rome was really about history for us and we really … Read more

Ornaments and egg cups from Rome

I’m halfway through my posts about all of our stops in Italy, so let’s take a rest stop and talk about shopping (don’t worry, there will be lengthy foodie posts to come as well!)


Before I leave on a trip, I try to find out what the specialty items of the area are. For Italy, I determined that I should look for handmade glass and lace (and locally made lace is hard to find and expensive since most of it is just made in factories in Asia now) in Venice, handcrafted paper and leather in Florence, and lemon products and custom-made sandals in Sorrento. Cameos are another specialty in Italy. I also read about glass or stone mosaics throughout the country.

I have several specific collections I am always looking to add to: bookmarks and magnets are the cheapest, although bookmarks can be hard to find. I always am looking for Christmas ornaments, Easter eggs and cups, handmade baskets, locally made soap, fun food items to bring home, and watercolor paintings depicting the area. It helps to have specific things to look for.


The shopping in Venice was fantastic. There were so many stores, it was hard to focus. This was also our first city, so we were jet lagged and trying to adjust to the terrible heat! We took a vaporetto to the island of Murano which was

Murano glass

an amazing place to visit, but they had so much glass that is made there on the island that it was hard to choose! Some of the glass is very expensive. One shop had a few glass mosaic pieces, but none were right.

I found two great bookmarks in Venice, one with a tassel (which they sell many of in Venice) and one with Murano glass.

We bought our Venice painting from an artist in the campo right in front of our hotel, next to a canal. It was one of those perfect settings.


Tray from Florence

There was a lovely shopping section in Florence on the far side of the Arno, just past the Ponte


Vecchio, but I wish it had been bigger. This area had some terrific artisan shops where we bought leather items and a beautiful painted tray. My husband bought a wallet and we got the leather trays I photographed. I found bookmarks here and little books of paintings from each city which will hang on my book tree in my office.

I bought my painting in Florence (the long narrow on in the front of the photo below) in a small courtyard outside the Uffizi where artists were selling their work. Artists were also selling things in the Plaza Repubblica at night. I find that areas where


tourists gather in the evenings are good places to find local paintings that are inexpensive. I rarely pay more than $20 for paintings like these.

I looked at gorgeous stone mosaics in Florence, but could not bring myself to spend a minimum of 250 Euros for one. So those have now taken up residence in the museum in my mind (all the things I wished I had bought and didn’t on all of my trips!).


Rome was a challenge for shopping, but we did find a nice little grouping of shops near the Pantheon. Everything else was junky souvenir shops or expensive designer shopping. There were several shops with nice pottery in Rome.

I bought a painting in Rome, but it’s a print that I saw lots of street vendors selling. I could not find any artists selling original paintings.

I saw a gorgeous handpainted leather purse I came very close to buying, but the back of it had some scratches. They didn’t have any others. Another item added to the museum of my mind.


We took a tour of Pompeii and I did not expect to buy anything there other than my fun little cheap magnet (I buy one every place we go and they decorate the file cabinet in my office). However, our guide took us into a cameo store, where an elderly man sits hand-making cameos.  They were beautiful and my daughter and I each bought one (ok, I bought two). The artist signed them on the back and also wrote our

Murano glass jewelry and handmade cameoes

initials on the back. I really wanted a blue cameo, but they told us those are always made in factories. The ones we bought are handmade from shells.


Sorrento had a wonderful shopping section, very quaint with narrow

Daughter’s custom-made sandals, hubby’s leather bag and belt from Sorrento; leather dresser catch-alls from Florence

alleys and cobblestone streets, just off the Tasso piazza. It was a shopper’s paradise. There were so many shops selling leather purses that I was dizzy!

My daughter had sandals handmade for her here (you go in and pick out the elements you want on them and they have it ready the next day: they do not actually hand-make the sole however – they just put together the pieces you select). Limoncello is a big product here, but I bought lemon soap and honey since we don’t care for alcohol.  My husband bought a beautiful leather bag and a belt here.

We had dinner one night down in Marina Grande, a tiny little beach area. There was an old woman selling lace just behind the beach. She was sitting and doing lacework, so there is a chance the lace I bought did not come from Asia, so I bought one lace doily.

We also stumbled upon a truly fantastic HUGE store called Gargiulio and Januzzi. They sold inlaid wood boxes and plaques, some glass jewelry and a big room of amazing Italian pottery and linens. Downstairs was a big room with marquetry inlay furniture which was gorgeous. I had to get out of that room or I would have had the entire thing shipped home. I bought some pottery and a table runner, as well as an inlay wood box (all still being shipped home, so no photos). Very high quality items and very good customer service. The shipping was free which was a nice bonus.


We visited the island of Capri on a tour, but only went to the town of Anacapri where the shopping was rather limited. I had high hopes for Capri, but didn’t buy much, other than the beautiful hydrangea glass plate I’ve photographed with my Murano glass. My daughter and I bought the lace bracelets I photographed with the lace doily here.

I could not find a painting on Capri (there was one shop in Anacapri with paintings and the owner was so aggressive, I could not even really look at his work. We ended up buying one in Sorrento of Capri the next day, so that worked out ok.

Pasta, regional soaps and lemon honey from Sorrento

Not pictured are t-shirts and sweatshirts other members of the family brought home, as well as a couple pairs of earrings my daughter bought and promptly put into use!

We also had to make an emergency suitcase purchase at a train station! My daughter’s suitcase zipper broke. The train station in Rome had a big suitcase shop and we got a nice one for about 50 Euro, which was a nice bargain. We tried to throw out the broken suitcase, but everyone we asked told us to just set it outside the main doors of the station and someone would take it!

Overall, it was a successful trip in terms of shopping and now I am trying to figure out where to put it all! I have to get the paintings framed, which is always a challenge. I can often find frames and mattes at Michael’s but sometimes they are not standard sizes and I have to have them framed.

I always feel as though I am buying a ton, then I get it all home and it really isn’t a lot. It’s always so nice to have lovely little items to remind me of our trips!




Lace bracelets from Capri; lace doily bought on the beach in Sorrento





Tie, Murano egg, mosaic plate and frame from Rome; tiny books that fold out with pics of the cities from Florence, to go on my book Xmas tree


My cheapest buys: magnets





I’m halfway through my posts about all of our stops in Italy, so let’s take a rest stop and talk about shopping (don’t worry, there will be lengthy foodie posts to come as well!) Pre-Shopping Before I leave on a trip, I try to find out what the specialty items of the area are. For … Read more

We used to rent a cottage on beautiful Cayuga Lake every summer when our daughter was little.  We had the greatest times there: fishing, swimming, feeding the ducks, and exploring the Finger Lakes of NY. One of our greatest finds was a little store run by Mennonites, called Sauder’s Store, in nearby Seneca Falls (and if you aren’t aware, Seneca Falls, NY is the town used in It’s A Wonderful Life called Bedford Falls in the movie and is also home to women’s voting rights: the women’s rights convention was held here and began the movement to give women the right to vote – they have a museum about it you should visit if you are in the area).

At the time we used to visit yearly while staying on Cayuga, it was a well-kept secret: hard to find if you didn’t know it was there. It was a small little place that sold Mennonite baked goods, bulk items, produce and specialty items from the area. We used to get up early to get there to have the greatest selection of baked goods! Since we stopped staying on Cayuga Lake, we try to drive out every couple of years to the shop. We hadn’t been in a while, and my parents’ house on Conesus Lake gets us about halfway there, so this past weekend we decided to make the trek (about an hour and a half from the lake house, about 2 hours from our house if we drove from here).

The store has expanded over the years and carries more items than ever before, as well as handmade wood furniture, handmade wagons, Amish quilts (they only had one when I was there, but I looked!), and plants. We filled a cart and brought home many wonderful items:

  • birch beer (I bought 2 cases since it can be hard to find!)
  • sassafrass soda
  • Utz potato chips
  • bulk spices
  • butterscotch peanut butter
  • bulk cake decorations
  • smoothie mix
  • Lebanon bologna (looks like salami, tastes like bologna or thuringer)
  • smoked cheddar cheese
  • blueberry cheese
  • rolled butter (made from whey cream instead of sweet cream; it’s supposed to have an amazing flavor: I’ve never tried it before and will report back when I have)
  • smoked pork chops (now you can buy these in the grocery store, but back when we used to come here, you couldn’t, so they were a special treat and I still think theirs has much better flavor)
  • German hot dogs with cheese in them
  • beef sticks
  • cinnamon rolls
  • whoopie pies (chocolate and pumpkin)
  • pickles

    Sweet Corn puff snacks

  • jam
  • alphabet noodles (I can’t find these anywhere, ever, so I was thrilled to stumble on them)
  • shoofly pie
  • Himalayan grain mix
  • canned vanilla peaches

and much more. The aisles are jammed with bulk candy, spices, pastas, cooking mixes, flours, snacks, baking products, sodas, and it is all very different from what you can find at a regular grocery store.

We also bought an Amish-made basket as a gift for my mother-in-

Baked goods

law (signed on the back and dated, which is nice).

The shop is owned and run by Mennonites (basically Amish-light) and many, many Mennonites from the Finger Lakes area shop there. My great-grandmother was a Mennonite and I recognize the little caps they wear as one she wore in a photo I have of her. They have a huge selection of books about the Amish and Mennonites. They also sell wooden toys, and things like puzzles, sticker books, stationery, and other interesting little gift items. I am always on the lookout for narrow shopping list pads that are magnetic to keep on my fridge. I like to change them out for the seasons and holidays. They had an entire wall of these (I thought I had died and gone to heaven).

Shopping here always feels like stepping into a different world. There are now several

Smoked cheddar, blueberry cheese and Lebanon bologna

stores like this scattered throughout the Finger Lakes, but we’ll always go back to Sauder’s since we’ve been customers for almost 20 years and it reminds us of the wonderful times we had staying on Cayuga Lake. And I love that the foods we bring home are simple country-style items.  I love to make complicated meals, but I also love to eat things that are just simple and delicious, and that’s what we find here.

We used to rent a cottage on beautiful Cayuga Lake every summer when our daughter was little.  We had the greatest times there: fishing, swimming, feeding the ducks, and exploring the Finger Lakes of NY. One of our greatest finds was a little store run by Mennonites, called Sauder’s Store, in nearby Seneca Falls (and … Read more

The second leg of our Italy trip was three days in Florence. I was looking forward to this since I had heard the city was very walkable and friends had loved it.

I’ll be doing a separate post about Italy hotels (coming soon!) so I’ll hold off on talking about that here, but let me say the hotel was not as close as we had hoped to the city center.


The train ride from Venice to Florence was stunning. Tuscany really is all it’s cracked up to be. It was green, gold, and blue and the country villas with the fields were just beautiful. I would have loved to get off the train and drive through that countryside!

Ponte Vecchio


On our first day, we walked to the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge that spans the Arno River and is made up entirely of jewelry shops. This is the only bridge in Florence that Hitler spared and it has a long and rich history. The Medicis built a passageway on top of the shops on the bridge, so that they could cross the river in private. The shops are really overwhelming. There’s just too many, with too much merchandise. I didn’t even go in one – too confusing! We did window shop though.

The shopping on the far side of the bridge (the side where the Pitti Palace is) was excellent however. Lots of artisans selling wonderful things like paper, leather, jewelry, and ceramics. The shopping on the city side of the bridge is mostly designer stuff I wasn’t interested in very much.

There were some artists set up outside the Uffizi and I bought a painting there (my shopping post will be coming soon).

We visited the marketplace where there is a boar statue you are supposed to pet if you want to return to Florence. The boar was cute, but the market was run of the mill street vendors with cheap stuff.

The View

On our second day in  Florence we took a tour. They took us by bus to the Piazzelle

The view

Michaelangelo. There’s a huge parking lot up in the hills where you can stand and see not only the entire city, but the entire countryside. It was simply stunning and made me wish I could get out into the countryside even more! There is a replica of the David in this parking lot as well.

Duomo and Baptistery

Baptistery doors

The Duomo and the Baptistery are the famous church buildings in the center of the city. Unfortunately, our tour did not take us into these buildings. That was not made clear to us when we signed up at all, so once the tour was over, we backtracked and went into the Duomo, which is a beautiful church with a dome created by Brunelleschi, at a time when the technology for making domes like this had been lost, so it is quite impressive. There was a long line to go up to the top of the dome, but we weren’t interested in doing that. The outside of the church is prettier than the inside, however, with its gold outer dome. The Baptistery is famous for its bronze doors, which are no longer original. We didn’t go inside, but we looked at the doors.

The David

Our tour next took us to the Accademia. We were able to skip the line to get in (and it was a LONG one!), but we still had to wait for our group to be let in. It was extremely crowded inside. We ditched the tour and just went to see the David on our own. It was much bigger than expected and his hands and feet looked

Replica of the David

huge and out of scale. It was beautiful though and I’m glad we got to see it. We looked around a little bit, but really we just wanted to see the David and be done. Not to mention we were given no chance to use a bathroom on the 3 hour tour. It turns out the bathrooms in the Accademia are downstairs and you have to leave the ticketed area to get there, so we just left once we were done. Also, their gift shop was just awful!

Republicca Plaza

The tour had taken us through this plaza in the center of the city, but there isn’t much to

Republicca Plaza

see. It’s just an open square that used to be the Roman forum in the city. There is a carousel there now and at night there were artists selling their work.

Pitti Palace

We went to see the Pitti Palace on our own (no tour) later on the second day. This was a palace the Medici family took over and built out. It honestly is pretty ugly from outside and the entire front lawn is paved or brick, so it was not pretty or welcoming. The pricing was complicated. You had to choose one group of galleries/rooms to see. We didn’t want to pay for both, so we missed out on the gardens, which I understand are gorgeous (my kids would have rioted if we made them walk through a garden though). The rooms were beautiful and ornate, but I think I am desensitized to palaces after our trip England where we saw so many! It was worth seeing though, so I’m glad we went. I would have liked some background info on the place and the Medicis, but we just couldn’t handle another long tour.


Leaning Tower of Pisa

The last day in Florence we took a train to Pisa (about a one hour trip and there are trains running every 20 minutes). This is a really cute little city and I wish we had had time to explore it. We took a cab from the train station to the Campo dei Miracoli, which is the complex where the Leaning Tower stands. It’s basically a baptistery and a church and the tower on a giant open square. We had tickets to climb the tower a couple of hours after our arrival, so we spent some time walking around. The immediate area is really junky souvenir shops (yet, as my husband complained, not one had a t-shirt that said “I climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa”). It was pretty horrible. Finally it was our turn to go in the tower. We were stopped because my daughter had a purse. No one told us you couldn’t bring a purse in. There are no signs. It says nothing on the tickets and when we picked up the tickets no one said a word about it. So my husband had to run across the campo, rent a locker and leave it.

Then we started our ascent. It is a LONG way and it winds around and around. One of our group has trouble with heights and that person was not enjoying it at all. I did not like the pressure of trying to go fast enough to keep the people behind me happy. It is a little bit claustrophobic in there, particularly when people decide to go down past you.

We made it to the top and there is a nice view of the countryside from the top. It is nice to be able to say I climbed to the top of that!

The descent was easier than the ascent, however my husband managed to sprain his ankle coming down (he was trying to be careful of his knee and ended up hurting something else!). We got to the bottom and asked the people who worked there for medical attention and they were unhelpful. He hopped all the way to the ticket office where we were given one of those instant bags of ice (you smack it to activate it). Since it was about 99 degrees, it didn’t last long. We asked for another and got it, but were told it was the last one they had. Great. We saw an ambulance parked on the other side of the campo and he hobbled over there, hoping to get an Ace bandage. It turned out not to be an ambulance, but a police van, with no police anywhere to help us. Really, really frustrating.

We waited and waited for a cab, which took us to a restaurant I had read about. It turned out to be closed so we ate at a pizza place in an alleyway where they spoke no English. We got back to the train station and that was the end of our day. On the way to the train station, we saw where some decent shops were, but were unable to stop. So Pisa was a bit of a bust for us.

Florence at Night

We did have a nice dinner near the Duomo one night and came out to find lots of people wandering around the piazza. There were people selling toys that shoot up in the air and light up (we bought one for my son). We wandered a bit and on a street just off the Republicca  Plaza, came upon a street performer we watched for a bit. It was nice to walk around the city at night and see other people out and about. It was a relaxed feeling.

Florence Overall

Overall, I was not in love with Florence. The city felt dirty and cramped to me. There wasn’t a lot to see or do compared to Rome and Venice. Tuscany is a place I could fall in love with, but Florence itself did not thrill me. I did like the vibe the city had of being a home to artists and creative people.  I’m glad we went, but I don’t think I would plan to return to the city itself.

The second leg of our Italy trip was three days in Florence. I was looking forward to this since I had heard the city was very walkable and friends had loved it. I’ll be doing a separate post about Italy hotels (coming soon!) so I’ll hold off on talking about that here, but let me … Read more

Petting the piggies

We realized recently that my 14 year old son has never been to the Fair (ours is the third largest in the entire country, so it is quite something to see). He went as a baby, but doesn’t remember it. We used to go every year. My husband’s family went religiously every year for an entire day each time. They would set up camp at a picnic area and spend the entire day from morning till it closed, seeing shows, going on rides, eating Fair food, and seeing the exhibits. I went a few times as a child then when I met my husband we began going together every year. I remember being there the summer I was pregnant with my daughter and desperately craving birch beer, yet that year they had none for sale! I also remember my son losing his favorite toy there as a baby.

It was time to get my son to the Fair, particularly once he heard they had deep-fried Koolaid, so we went last night.

We saw all the animals and a pig race. There was a sheep costume contest going on that we watched for a bit (the sheep were not excited about their costumes). We inspected the award-winning vegetables, the funny things for sale, and saw a wolf show (some day I will write a post about the wolves we have gone to see over the years). We played a few games, looked at the rides, but mostly wandered around and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Sheep costume contest

Of course, we had to have some Fair food. First up, my daughter needed a donut dog. This is a hot dog placed on a donut instead of a roll. The donut is griddled slightly, but it’s really sticky on the outside. She enjoyed that (they also had a donut burger but we didn’t try that!). My son had a corn dog. I had a cheeseburger. They had birch beer so we got a big cup of that to share (you can buy it bottled in stores now once in a while, so it isn’t a once a year specialty like it used to be!).

Then it was time to consider the fried foods. Fried Koolaid was

Donut dog

required. It was also disappointing. I had seen a photo of it in a magazine and there it looked like balls of Koolaid. What we got were squiggles of batter that tasted faintly of fruit. We also got fried cheese curds, which sounded interesting, but looked like fried mozzarella sticks (they did taste like cheese curds). The hands down winner was the deep fried cookie dough, which was warm and gooey and pretty darn delicious.

Before we left, we had some ice cream, kettle corn, and sugar waffles. All in all it was a successful Fair outing!

Fried cheese curds and cookie dough

Deep-fried Koolaid

We realized recently that my 14 year old son has never been to the Fair (ours is the third largest in the entire country, so it is quite something to see). He went as a baby, but doesn’t remember it. We used to go every year. My husband’s family went religiously every year for an entire … Read more

Leaving the airport via water taxi

Our two week trip to Italy began in Venice. It was love at first sight for me. This is hands-down the most romantic city I’ve ever visited. Venice is like something out of a fairy tale. It’s like a mystical kingdom: an island set off the shore where there are no cars, buses, taxis, or scooters. The only way to get around the city is by boat or on foot. What this means is that Venice is supremely quiet. There are no engines, horns, or tires squealing. When you are facing a canal, boats go by, but they are quiet (the Grand Canal is the exception – there is a lot of traffic there). The rest of the city is made up of quiet alleyways and calm squares (called campos, which mean fields in Italian).  It was this beautiful silence that first struck me. And all the streets are very, very narrow, not more than 4 people across.


The second thing that captivated me was the architecture. Venice was most definitely

Contrasting architecture styles

Italian, but because of its unique historical position as a gateway between the east and west, it has architecture that reflects French and Turkish styles. It’s an incredible combination of the most beautiful styles from all over Europe and it made the city feel very welcoming and inclusive. The buildings lining the Grand Canal were all originally palaces and the Grand Canal was their Main Street, so their elegant facades face this canal. All buildings situated on canals have doors that open (or once opened) to the canal. This was the front door. You can transport yourself to another time when you look at these palazzos. The buildings have many window boxes with flowers and this is the only greenery you will see in the city. There are no parks, no trees, no grass (except in some private courtyards). You also see a lot of laundry hung out the upper windows of buildings, which felt very Italian to me. And

One of many beautiful doors

then there are the doors. The city is filled with unique and wonderful doors. I took photos of many of them. I was hoping to find a poster of them, but didn’t see one.

The Bridge

Rialto Bridge

The top tourist attractions in Venice are the Rialto Bridge, the biggest and most beautiful bridge spanning the Grand Canal. It is filled with souvenir shops. Climbing to the top of the bridge allows an excellent viewpoint of the Grand Canal. Either end of the canal is also filled with street stalls selling souvenirs. The bridge is pretty to look at, but is choked with junky stores and tourists.

Piazza San Marco

The other big attraction is Piazza San Marco, home to a huge open piazza. It is surrounded on 4 sides by buildings. There are hundreds of pigeons in this square. One end of the square is dominated by the stunning San Marco cathedral. We took a tour inside this beautiful church. The inside of the domes and many of the walls are covered with intricate stone mosaics. The amount of work that went into this art is mindblowing. The church also has a beautiful exterior with many statues. The marble pillars around the front of the building were fascinating because each is different – and

San Marco church

each was stolen from somewhere else in the world. The view from the balcony  is remarkable because it allows you to look out over the lagoon to the Adriatic Sea. You also have a stunning view of the piazza.

Next door to the church is the Doge’s Palace. The doge was the ruler of Venice, but he was not like a king. Our guide told us much about the forward-thinking government of Venice which was a republic ruled by nobles. The palace itself is not very exciting, although the maps painted on the walls were of interest because of how wrong they were, but also because they showed the travels of Marco Polo, native son of Venice and the man credited with opening China to trade with Europe.

We walked over the famous Bridge of Sighs which connected the prisons to the government rooms. Our tour allowed us to skip the lines to get into the church and palace and I highly recommend doing so (the lines were long and stood in the hot sun). I also think it is a good idea to take an actual tour so you can learn what you are looking at and why it is important. Our tour began with a little walking tour of Venice that included the area where Marco Polo was believed to have lived and our guide provided us with much background information that helped me understand the city.

Orchestra at the Florian Cafe

We had lunch in the piazza, at the oldest cafe in Venice, called The Florian Cafe. You sit at a table in the open piazza and an orchestra plays. You, of course, pay through the nose for this experience, since there is a seating fee added to your bill and the food (which was absolutely fine but not amazing) is grotesquely overpriced. It is a once in a lifetime thing though, so we did it.


The shopping in Venice was overwhelming. I have never been in a place with so many shops. There was simply hours of shopping on the main pathways to the bridge and to the piazza. There’s lots of Murano glass to be bought and I did buy some here, but tried to wait for our trip out to Murano itself (an island a short boat ride away).


Vaporetto on the Grand Canal as seen from the Rialto Bridge

There are several types of boat transport in Venice which I carefully read up on in advance. We took water taxis to and from the train station and airport. These are small wooden boats that reminded me a lot of the classic wooden boats you see on American lakes. They have an enclosed portion with benches. They can hold up to about 8-10 people it seemed, but our guides always took us alone in them. When we left the airport, our water taxi traveled on what was essentially a road through the water. It was a specific channel tightly enclosed by wooden pillars, that led the way from the airport to the city.

The rest of the time we were in the city and were not walking, we used vaporettos, which are like water buses or subway lines. You buy a ticket from an automated machine and get on when the boat comes to your stop. There is a specific line with stops listed so it is relatively easy to manage. We heard about, but did not ride in traghettos, small rowed boats that will take you across a canal. We had no need for them since there were plenty of bridges.

We also took a private gondola ride. Our gondolier did not sing (fine by me!) and we


traveled over part of the Grand Canal and many smaller canals. When we were on the smaller canals, it was a quiet, serene ride and was something to check off my bucket list!


All the guidebooks warned me that it is very easy to get lost in Venice. If you are going to the main tourist sites, they are signs on the corners of buildings with arrows and you just follow them without issue. If, however, you are trying to find a specific restaurant, good luck. We had both a paper map and a digital map that tracked our location in real time and couldn’t find anything, ever. We saw a lot of interesting little alleys and campos this way (and as an aside, I have to say I never felt unsafe, even though most of the alleys and campos off the beaten track are as empty as ghost towns).

Overall Impression

One of the many quiet alleys

My overall feeling about Venice was that it is a very European city and not a typical Italian city, particularly when I compare it to the other places we went in Italy. It made me want to see more of Europe, however. The people were all very friendly and spoke very good English, making it easy for us ignorant Americans to communicate. I felt very welcomed and comfortable in this city. Venice is the perfect city to wander in. Go see the top tourist sites, then allow yourself time to just explore.  Venice is now on my list of my all-time favorite places (the list also includes Maine, Savannah, Scotland, Hawaii, Sedona AZ, and the Bahamas). Someday I hope to go back to this mesmerizing city.

Our two week trip to Italy began in Venice. It was love at first sight for me. This is hands-down the most romantic city I’ve ever visited. Venice is like something out of a fairy tale. It’s like a mystical kingdom: an island set off the shore where there are no cars, buses, taxis, or … Read more

Grand Canal in Venice

We are just back from a magnificent two week trip to Italy. While I’m still recovering from jet lag and dealing with the laundry mountain, I want to start to share the trip with you. Be patient with me, dear reader! After 2 weeks away, I have lots to tell you, so I have many posts planned.

For today, I want to give you an overview of our trip. We decided to go with an escorted tour, which meant the tour company was responsible for arranging our air and train travel, hotels and transportation to and from airports and train stations. We then chose some specific guided tours of things we wanted guides for. The rest of the time we were on our own.


Our trip began when we arrived by plane at the Venice airport. Our guide met us and took

Florence from the Piazzelle Michaelangelo

us by water taxi to our hotel. We spent 3 nights in Venice and explored the Rialto Bridge, the Grand Canal, San Marco, Doge’s Palace (guided tour of these last two), the island of Murano, and many little corners of Venice. We took a gondola ride that was almost surreal feeling. Our guide took us by water taxi to the train station at the end of our stay.


We enjoyed the train trip through Tuscany (I would love to go back and explore the countryside). Three nights in Florence were wonderful. Our guide met us at the train station and took us by van to our hotel, on the banks of the Arno. We explored the Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace, and took a guided tour that took us by bus to the Piazzelle Michealangelo (for the view) then to the Duomo and the Accademia where we saw the David. We took a train on our own to Pisa for an afternoon to climb the leaning tower. My husband managed to sprain his ankle coming down, so we didn’t get to explore the town.

Spanish Steps in Rome

Our Florence guide took us back to the train station from our hotel.


The train ride to Rome was relaxing and we had our first glimpse of the Mediterranean on the way. Our guide brought us to the hotel for our three night stay. Rome was a magnificent city. We explored the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain (where we threw coins in) and took guided tours of the Vatican and ancient Rome. We also visited the Pantheon. Our guide took us to the train station.


We traveled by train to Naples , where our guide met us and took us to Pompeii. Once there, we had a private guided tour of these impressive ruins. Our guide then drove us to

Sorrento harbor

Sorrento for our 3 night stay, and we enjoyed the stunning views of the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius and the mountainous Amalfi coast. We took an all day guided tour to the island of Capri (this was quite a day and involved 4 buses and 4 boats) where we went to the Blue Grotto and traveled up to Anacapri. On another day, we explored Sorrento’s seaport and swam in the Mediterranean with Mount Vesuvius behind us. Our guide took us to the Naples airport and we flew home from there.

It was the most memorable vacation we’ve taken, I think and my mind is swimming with all the experiences. There was lots of good food (there was only one really bad meal the entire time), I did some great shopping, we took some beautiful photos, and we learned so much about Italy. I will be sharing all of that with you in coming posts. I kept a notebook this trip so that I would be sure to remember the things I want to write about.



We are just back from a magnificent two week trip to Italy. While I’m still recovering from jet lag and dealing with the laundry mountain, I want to start to share the trip with you. Be patient with me, dear reader! After 2 weeks away, I have lots to tell you, so I have many … Read more