Rome in Quattro Days

Alright, so I’ll be honest. I’ve been avoiding this post because it is intimidating. Rome. What can I say? Rome was charming yet intense, classy yet demanding, busty yet dainty. With its 290 fountains and 900+ churches, there are endless sights and ruins to see. Trains are cheap and VERY easy to figure out. I think we did a pretty damn good job gettin’ er’ done in four whole days. Thiiiisss is hooowww weeee (did) itttt.

Day 1

Our train arrived in the city around 3:00 pm. We decided to opt out of a taxi ride to our AirBnB, that way we could see sites on foot along the way. Our AirBnB was east of the Colosseo (Colosseum). Come to find, we were living in the heart of the gay district in Rome! Rainbows, delicious drinks, and the BEST PIZZA IN ITALY (more on that later…). PRO TIP: Stay within walking distance of a train station. It makes life VERY accessible in Roma.

Roman Forum
After we settled ourselves, we wandered to the Coloseo and Roman Forum. We bought the 2-day pass which allows you to see both sites ONE TIME OVER a 2-day period. Many tourists were confused, but we figured it out eventually. We decided this day was for the Roman Forum. The ruins were amazingly old, beautiful, and religious. To my excitement, there were columns laying in the walking paths for guests to sit, stand, or touch. I have a thing for ancient columns.

columns, rome, roma, italy, travel, travel blog, ancient city, roman forum

SO KEWL.

Our stomachs were growling, so we decided to hit Coming Out Roma for dinner. We sat outside at a table on the street. D to my front, and to my right, the sun setting through the empty arches of the Colosseum. We ordered Long Islands, they were perfect. We totes ordered more than one. I ordered their Quattro Formaggio pizza, my date ordered the Diavola. The pizza came out complete smothered in mozzarella, thick slices of smoked gouda, and sprinkled with parmesean -reggiano. Oh. My. Gaw. Literally no words except for this. And that I will dream about that pizza just as much as I will those mozzarella di bufala balls from Pompei.

We grabbed some snacks and a bottle(s) of wine from the supermarket. Called it a night to catch up on some Z’s.

Day 2

Colosseum
Bright and early, we headed to the Colosseo. To be brutally honest, it wasn’t as life-changing as other things I had seen on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely surreal being in such an important, ancient, brilliant masterpiece of a structure. Those Romans knew their shit. We snapped some pics, read some plaques, and got the heck out.

Vatican City
MAKE A RESERVATION BEFORE YOU GO. Thank the good Lord Jesus (literally) that the building is shaped to block the sun for most of the three hours -okay it was more like one- you will wait in line if you don’t make a reservation. We didn’t. We toughed it out, and once inside it moved very quickly.

Once in the walls of the city, we felt like herded cattle. I was scared I would drop something and be trampled by the thousands of tourists surrounding me. We were in a maze of the dopest paintings, rugs, and statues my eyes have ever seen. No time to take more than one picture and DEFINITELY not enough time to ask someone to take a pic of the two of us. The maze was heading in the direction of the Sistine Chapel. Once inside, prepare for your mind to be blown into millions of pieces all over the Vatican guards. The Sistine Chapel is just as majestic as you would imagine. NO PICTURES though and be sure you “KEEP MOVING OR MOVE TO THE SIDE.”

We hit up St. Peter’s Square to see where Frances does his THANG. It was pretty incredible being in such a holy important place. We opted out of the rumored 2.5 hour line to get into the basilica. I’d had enough cattle drives for one day.

PRO TIP: Eat at restaurants AWAY from touristy spots. You’ll wind up ordering a pizza and then read the fine print that says, “Items with * are frozen meals.” *eye roll*

Trevi Fountain
Hit this babe at night, it will be worth it. The walk from the train station to the fountain at night isn’t uncomfortable, a lot of cute cafes to stop in for gelato or wine.

No matter the time of day, it will be packed. Touch the water to ensure you’ll visit again and throw in a euro or two for good luck. The oldest water source in Rome collects about €3,000 a day and gives that money to Caritas, which helps those in need.

trevia fountain, rome, roma, italy, travel, travel blog, adventure

So wealthy with coins, yet still Baroque.

Day 3

We found ourselves back at Coming Out Roma for brunch. It was amazing– those boys just don’t stop. Today was just a wander day. We wandered to the EU building part of town and eventually stumbled upon the Spanish Steps, which like many structures, were being renovated. We stopped at a recommended pizza place called Pizza Ciro (thanks, Jen) and enjoyed a delightful pizza. I recommend you sit by a window towards the front, it got stuffy in the back.

We walked up and down the designer streets, trying on hats we’ll never buy and gorging ourselves with gelato and espresso. Having no plan seemed like a good plan that day. The Pantheon is a must. A dome building with no lights, except for a circular skylight at the top, accompanied with an opera singer inside.

Pantheon, rome, roma, italy, travel, travel blog, adventure

PantheON FLEEK.

For dinner, go find deep fried spaghetti. We found ours at a market next to our apartment called D Auria Palmina. It looks questionable, but it is worth every calorie. Trust me, boo.

Day 4

The beginning of the end of our journey. PRO TIP: Make sure that you notice if you flight is AM or PM, because we found out early that we had about 9 more hours to kill than we had planned. In ways, it was great, more time in Rome. In other ways, it was the longest, day, ever.

Due to this slip of the eye, we were able to see more than we planned. We planned out our day’s with destinations near train stations (less walking, more seeing). We stored our bags in a locked closet provided from our AirBnB host, and we hit the town for one last time.

Train Stop: Flaminio
Worth it? YES
Things to see:

  • Piazza del Popolo- beautiful gardens, walking/bike path, benches, etc. Bring a deck of cards and a cup of espresso and enjoy the quiet for a bit.

Train Stop: San Giovanni
Worth it: Kind of?
Things to see:

  • Market- sort of took me back to China… everyone wants you to buy their overpriced knock offs. Honey, I know that scarf ain’t made of real Pashmina! SHOOT!
  • Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano- beautiful church. We didn’t go inside because I was not appropriately dressed (sorry I wore a tank top with a heat index of 110….)

Train Stop: Castro Pretorio
Worth it?  NO
We came thinking we’d go to the National Library, but we didn’t. We got a snack and walked around the block.

Train Stop: Circo Massimo
Worth It? Hell to the yes.
Things to see:

  • Circo Massimo itself. This is the old ancient track that was said to be used to train for the ancient Olympics. You can walk/run on it today.
  • Trastevere neighborhood. This place is where all of the Italian hipsters were hiding the entire time! Just across the Tiber River, this place was so beautiful, rich with culture and arts, and hidden from most public transit. We wanted to spend more time, but our dogs were killin’ us and we had a plane to catch.
tiber river, rome, roma, italy, travel, travel blog

Tiber River

While we may have arrived to our airport literally 7 hours early, I was happy to have a seat and looking forward to home and creating my Shutterfly book. More DOs and DON’T of planning a European trip to come in the future, thanks for reading!

Keep cheesin’!

-C

Pompei and Pompeii. Let’s learn the difference. Together.

Odds are, if you’re going to Europe, you’re going for the history. Pompei is a history goldmine. For us, Pompei was our fourth stop. We arrived after wining and hiking (and wining some more) in Cinque Terre’s Corniglia. It was going to be a tall task to top it, and turns out, Pompei didn’t come close, but that’s okay! You don’t go to Pompei for the relaxation, or to get away from it all – you go for the history! Within the city itself lies the ancient ruins of Pompeii (note the two “i’s”) – an ancient Roman city whose citizens lived luxurious, pampered, and alarmingly sexual lives. Oh, and there’s a fucking active volcano here. Let’s dive in, but before that, let’s review:

Pompei = City and commune in the metropolitan city of Naples

Pompeii = Ancient Roman city whose fate was brought to you in part by ash blanket suffocation and molten death

Pompeii, Rome, Ruins, Vesuvius

A statue stares out at the range surrounding Pompeii.

Welcome to Pompei!

We had three full days to spend in Pompei, and our plate was full. No different than our other stops, we booked an AirBnb in the heart of town. Our host was Serena, and although we did not get the chance to physically meet her, she was by far the most accommodating of our hosts. She helped us book trains and travel for nearly all our Italian destinations, and her pal Alfonso even picked us up from Napoli Centrale. This sounds sketchy, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. It was immediately apparent he was not a crazed axe murderer – he was just a life-loving guy with a passion for his city. On our way to the Airbnb, he stopped at a local shop and ordered fresh mozzarella for us – which was such a life-altering, beautiful moment that I was immediately saddened I would rarely, if ever, get to experience such a thing ever again.

Mozzarella, pompei, pompeii, italy, rome, napoli, cheese, gouda life

You can’t buy it like this in the US, folks.

The Ruins of Pompeii

In an effort to combat this unexpected depression, we opted to fight fire with fire and visit the Pompeii ruins the afternoon we arrived. After Alfonso left from getting us situated at the apartment, Cate and I hopped outside to walk there. From Serena’s Airbnb, the ruins are a mere 15 minute walk away. Pompei is a bustling town, and locals stand beside their storefronts desperately inquiring you to buy their things. Fair-skinned and blonde, Cate and I were remarkably American and thus ideal targets for the store workers. Be prepared to say “no thanks” plenty of times. An interesting tactic some of the tour stop workers would employ is asking us if we’re going to Pompeii, and then telling us we’re going the wrong way. Don’t worry – you’re going the right way, they just want you to buy into their tours. Another thing – please do not get frustrated with this – it’s their well-being!

pompeii, pompei, ruins, rome, civilization, vesuvius, europe, italy, travel, gouda life

Once inside the confines of the ruins, you’re immediately hit with the realization that you’re deeply immersed in one of the most historical areas in the world. Excavations are still taking place, and efforts to immortalize the ruins are ongoing. As you venture inward, the understanding of how great a place this once was will hit you. Pompeii, and most of the Roman Empire, was vastly ahead of its time. Technology like running water and warm, community baths will amaze you, and the artistic creations, whether decorative or architectural, will overwhelm you. Then you will realize this entire place was completely buried when Mount Vesuvius blew its top in 79 AD. There are casts of Pompeii’s citizens on display here – people covering their faces and protecting their children – you will also see the casts of dogs, as well. It’s all quite morbid and sad, really, but it’s humbling to observe. The most fascinating of it all is while you wander through the ruins, you will run into ancient depictions of Vesuvius, and you will notice the top goes to a point, rather than the flat-top it shows today. For me, this illustrated the magnitude of Vesuvius’ eruption – it literally blew its top off – encasing Pompeii and its citizens in thick ash for hundreds of years.

History is terrifying, but it’s important. We reflected over pizza and wine.

Mount Vesuvius

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Volcanoes, man. They’re kind of a like a highway to Earth’s core. Occasionally, the Earth gets aggravated and spews its wrath in a demonstration of monstrous power. As mentioned above, Vesuvius had one such eruption in 79 AD, and it did its best to completely erase a once thriving town. If you’re in Pompei, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

We walked the same route we took to the ruins, and the same gal told us we were going the wrong way. NICE TRY. The shuttles to Vesuvius pick you up at Pompei Scavi train station. From there, you start heading up to the rim. About halfway, you stop for a moment and switch into a vehicle better suited for the terrain awaiting you on the journey ahead. It looks like this:

Mercedes-Benz, 4x4, ATV

If you have any tendency to be susceptible to motion sickness, I recommend bringing along some dramamine or rocking some seabands. It’s a bumpy ride. After about 15 or 20 minutes, the bus drops you off, and leaves you with a 15 minute hike to the top. As with any hike, always remember to take your eyes off the ground every once in a while. From up here, you see the cities surrounding Vesuvius spread out around you. In the distance, you can see the Isle of Capri fighting the fog to meet your eyes. You see Pompeii, and you begin to fathom the magnitude of the infamous eruption. Once you reach the rim, you can peer into Vesuvius’ top. It’s covered in gravel, but steam still seeps out in some areas. To be honest, it’s alarmingly ominous, but you’ll notice there are sensors everywhere monitoring Vesuvius’ state, so any eruption can (theoretically) be predicted. Taking in the views around you, you realize that such an activity would pair beautifully with some wine. Conveniently, there’s some for sale up there, and it’s as intoxicating as it is affordable (very). Don’t overdo it though – you’ve got the commute back down to endure.

That night, we enjoyed some pasta and pesto, and cheap wine. The European Soccer Championships were on, and Italy was playing. I had always known that soccer was huge in Europe, but when Italy won that night, Pompei sounded like a war zone. I became a soccer fan that night.

Capri

Capri, Italy, Island, cliffs, ferry, boat, sea, Mediterranean,

On our final full day, we wanted nothing more than to have caprese on Capri, so we did just that. We took some rickety trains, and then a ferry across the Mediterranean to Capri. The sights were breathtaking, and the island became more beautiful as we inched closer. A bustling port greeted us as houses overlooked the bay. The first bit of depressing news hit when we discovered that the Blue Grotto was closed due to the tide. This is one of the primary attractions on the island, so we were left to explore and find Cate her caprese salad.

Before moving on, I need to admit something. The lack of the Blue Grotto, and the outrageously expensive, forgettable merchandise started getting to me. I got wrapped up in the disappointment and failed to absorb the world around me there. If you sense this happening to you, do everything in your power to stop it, or else you’ll end up feeling good about telling people Capri is “kinda like a floating Bonner Springs luxury outlet mall,” – which it most certainly is not.

caprese, capri, isle, italy, naples, centrale, eats, salad, fresh

Caprese in Capri

Anyway, Cate and I found a nice spot with Caprese on the menu. It was well enjoyed, and after a bit more exploring, we took the ferry back to Pompei and the rickety train back to our Airbnb. I would like to go back some time to get a more adequate serving of Capri.

Our final day in Pompei came to a close.

In short, here’s your Pompei to-do list:

  1. See the ruins
  2. Go to Mount Vesuvius
  3. Purchase and consume fresh mozzarella
  4. Eat pizza
  5. Learn stuff!

-D

Two Gouda Day Trips from Munich

So your trip to Munich is booked, and now all that’s left to do is fill up the time you’ll be spending there. Munich itself is a beautifully historic town with plenty to do and even more beer to drink, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you to explore the idea of taking a day trip or two while you’re there. Between the hyper-efficient train systems throughout Europe and Munich’s central location, there are some incredible places within a one-to-two hour train ride away.

Honestly, the number of available options can be overwhelming, and they’re aren’t any BAD choices. Some lists can be extensive, so today we’re presenting you with something simple –  two destinations. The two day trips we made from Munich were Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Salzburg, Austria. These two trips are both less than a two-hour train ride from Munich Central Station.

Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Salzburg, Day Trips, Europe

If you zoom out far enough, Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and Salzburg are a mere inches apart!

GARMISH-PARTENKIRCHEN: A fun word to say, and an even more fun place to visit

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Alps, Germany, Day trip, Munich

Garmisch-Partenkirchen

The mountains are always calling, and that’s how we ended up in Garmish-Partenkirchen. In our case, the mountains’ voices manifested themselves as a Rick Steves’ video about Munich. By the way – all his videos are perfect for your European trip’s planning stages, and this one is particularly proficient at teaching you how to pronounce “Garmisch-Partenkirchen.”

Anyway, Garmish-Partenkirchen is a small mountain town in the foothills of the Alps. Originally set as two separate towns, they were forced to combine by Adolf Hitler in preparation for the 1936 Winter Olympics. Looking around, it’s evident why this area would be an ideal location for the event, and many of the Olympic facilities are still standing today. It’s also home to Germany’s highest peak – the Zugspitze. On a clear day, you can see Germany, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland from there. The peak itself is conveniently accessible via a train and cable car, and also features one of the most bomb-ass biergartens in the world.

Zugspitze, Alps, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Munich, Germany, peak, mountains

The biergarten atop the Zugspitze.

You can get there by train or car from Munich, but we opted for rail. From Munich Central Station, snag tickets to Bahnhof Garmisch-Partenkirchen, hop aboard, and enjoy the incredible sights. Odds are, it will be among the quickest hour and half commutes you’ve ever experienced.

Trains, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Munich, Day Trip, Views

Just a sampling of the views you’ll encounter from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

After you’ve arrived, find the stairs to go under the platform – this is how you get to the train that takes you to the top. Tickets are a bit pricey (50 €), but well worth it. You’ll hop on a train and have the option of switching to the cable eventually. We hopped off here, but I’m sure the view is just as gorgeous while descending. This car takes you to Zugspitze’s peak. At this point, I recommend heading right to the biergarten, where the offerings are simple and the prices are surprisingly reasonable. Wine is served by the carafe, and the beer, of course, is plenty. If you’re feeling spicy, snag some gipfelschnaps (summit booze)! Take it easy, though: combining a rapid altitude increase (you’re just a bit higher than Keystone, CO) and alcohol can be…interesting.

Zugspitze, Cable Car, Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, peak, biergarten

Zugspitze from the cable car station.

After taking in the views, take another cable car to the lower part of the peak. Here, there are exhibits to explore and more sights to absorb. Pro tip: don’t allow the aforementioned alcohol consumption force you to buy food here. We did, and it wasn’t great. You’re better off getting something back in town.

Speaking of – the town(s) of Garmisch-Partenkirchen are a perfect slice of Bavarian tradition. We recharged with some espresso and wandered around for a couple hours. The water flowing throughout is a glacial-fed stream, which explains its light blue color. There are also two gorges to check out, as well, but we were unable to get there on our trip. After you’ve wandered and eaten to your heart’s content, hop back on the train and head back to Munich. THAT’S A DAY TRIP.

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA – Home of Mozart and The Sound of Music

Hohensalzburg Castle, Salzburg, Munich, Day Trip,

The view from atop the Hohensalzburg Castle in Salzburg, Austria

Another extremely simple day trip from Munich is Salzburg, Austria. It’s a less than two-hour train ride from Munich Central Station, and the passing scenery helps speed things up. We didn’t know much about Salzburg beforehand, except that it was the Home of Mozart, the Sound of Music was shot there, and that there is a castle. After leaving the train, walk to the Mozartplatz. On this walk, you’ll go by several shops and restaurants – stop in as many as you’d like. Once at the Mozartplatz, grab a map from one of the info stations, and head to the Hohensalzburg Castle – it’s been raid-free since 1525!

Mozart, Salzburg, Austria, Day trip, munich,

Some Mozart graffiti in an passageway

On a clearer day, I would recommend checking out the various gardens and even taking a tour or two around town. For us though, it began mercilessly pouring on us after leaving the castle. Staying dry was not an option, and we dashed in between storefronts to evade the rain. Eventually, we came across a sign for an Irish pub called “Shamrock.” Here is where we stayed, sipping whiskey until the rain held off. By late afternoon, it all stopped and we headed back to the train station.

Irish Pub, Salzburg, Austria, Munich, Day Trip

Shamrock Irish Pub – Our shelter during the storm.

Again, thanks to Munich’s central location, it makes day trips like these extremely simple things to do, and even regrettable if you don’t. Of course, there are several other options available, but we recommend these due to their short train rides and geographical and cultural differences. There’s so much to see in Europe – it’s just up to you to decide where you want to go.

-D

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Shop till you drop in Salzburg.

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Be warned. There are puppets in the castle.