Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ciao Italy

     Since the hubby's and my London trip, I have been bitten by the travel bug.  We live in Germany, which makes it so convenient and inexpensive to travel to all the cool and historic countries nearby.  Another awesome tidbit is that my Bestie lives just south of us in Italy.  So when the opportunity to go visit her for a week came up, I totally jumped on it!  The hubby took some time off to watch the kiddos so I could make some fun memories with my friend.  We decided to stay in Italy and make it road trip starting in Venice through Bologna, through Florence, to Rome (stay there a couple of days), then back up the Mediterranean coast line up to Pisa, then back through Florence and Bologna to Venice.  Oh, I had BIG plans for this trip! 
     When we were both stationed in California we used to celebrate each other's birthdays pretty big.  I mean, I hosted a five course  Julie & Julia Birthday Dinner Party and a Twilight: Breaking Dawn Birthday Party for her.  And we have also celebrated my birthday with a  Great Gatsby Birthday Dinner.  Since we didn't get to celebrate either of our birthdays last or this year, I decided to make this a big deal.
    After we decided what cities we wanted to hit on our road trip I booked my flight to Venice (the closest airport by my friend) on Berlin Air.  Then I went on to search for a hotel in Rome for us to stay in.  I found one within walking distance of the Colosseum and other popular attractions, it is called I Love Colosseo B&B.  From there I searched on Trip Advisor and City Discovery for some activities for us to do in Rome.  When all was planned and reserved I put together some special cards for my friend.  I sent a little note to her every morning with a hint of what we had planned for the day.  She was so surprised and made me happy we got to make some fun memories.
     So, here's how our Italy trip went...Thursday... Day one of my trip,  I got both of the kiddos off to school and the hubby dropped me off at the airport.   Little known fact, I am NOT the best flyer, and if I can take a car or train or bus to get somewhere over flying, I would totally be down with that.  But, I know I will never see anything if I don't go by plane.  I sucked it up, put in my earbuds, and listened to the soundtrack of Wicked (told you I listen to it) the whole one hour flight it took to get to Venice.  Truth be told, it was a very smooth and easy flight, even for a two propeller plane, thank God.  I arrived to find my Bestie and two of her Italian friends (and a warm cappuccino) waiting for me at the airport cafe.  After a quick coffee break we were off.

     { A couple of weeks before my trip, my friend (an opera singer) informed me that she was to sing in her choir in a very hush hush secret special performance of La Traviata, a very famous Italian opera.  Ok, cool, no I thought.  She asked to see if I had a black blouse, black blazer, black slacks, and black shoes.  Sure, no problem.  Then she let's me know I will be joining her on this once in a lifetime experience.  Ok I thought, won't be too bad, I'll get to watch her, cool.  Keep this all in mind as I get back to the story of my trip. } 

    Back in Venice, the four of us loaded in the car and went somewhere, I'm not sure.  We parked and then walked down by the canals for awhile, I mean a LONG while, then arrived at some restaurant they go to a lot, for some lunch.  I wasn't very hungry, so I ordered an amazing Bufala Cheese and Tomato Caprese Salad and a glass of Prosecco.  Oh it was delish, and gotta have a Cappuccino afterward.  With bellies full we headed to the theatre where my friend's friend would be conducting the opera, and her and her other friend would be singing in the opera.  Let me tell you, if walking around Venice up and down alley ways, this way and that is confusing during a nice warm day, try doing it when it's raining, which is what we had to do.  Thank goodness my Bestie's friend knew where to go and that I packed my travel umbrella for just such of an occasion.   We arrived at the theatre around 5pm and the opera didn't start till 8pm.  So we checked in and got some handy dandy name tags, I even got one!  Next, we went into the practice hall for the musicians to practice a few songs with each other and the famous Soprano and Tenor that was headlining that night.  It was amazing to sit in and watch such talented people make musical art with their instruments and voices.  I wish I had that gift......So, me, the not Italian red head was handed a piece of paper with a bunch of Italian words to the song on it and told I would have to "sing" too.  OMG! I knew I was going to be there, hopefully just standing by my friend, but no no no.  I was to be in my own balcony box and pretend to sing this famous Italian song in a very famous Italian opera ALL in Italian.  When practice was over, so we were told to go get dressed (the black outfit) and meet in the assigned balcony boxes of the theatre. I took a few pictures, but not many, since we were told not to.  Hehe.  Well the time finally came for the opera to I was sitting towards the back of the balcony, which we were told to do.  The conductor didn't want the guests to know the choir was up there until the assigned song for them to sing started.  Like a bit "ta da."  Ok, another known fact.  I am a rule follower, I am the first born out of my family, I am a Virgo, I don't like change, but will do it if I have to.  With that said...I was FREAKING out when if came to "sing" our part.  Especially, when I first thought we would be in the shadows of the balcony boxes, only for the entire choir to be lit up with blue spot lights for the ENTIRE song.   Once it was over, all four minutes of it, I thought I could relax.  NOPE, wrong again.  The conductor decided to do an encore, so we did the song AGAIN!  So not only did I "sing" in an opera, but I did it twice!  After the show was over, we went and got dressed in our regular clothes, me a bit shaky and still a little freaked out.  We walked in the rain again back to the same restaurant for some dinner.  This time I was starving, so I got a bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara, one of my faves, and a glass of prosecco.  Back in the rain again, we walked back to the car then drove to my Bestie's house.  We went straight to bed because we had a fun day one of our road trip the next day.

     Friday... Day two of my trip.  I sent my friend her little note for the day, then we packed up the car, stopped for some snacks for the trip, got some gas, then went for breakfast and cappuccinos before we got on the road to Rome.  We didn't get very far before we ran into some heavy traffic.  Like complete stop traffic for almost an hour.  It was a good thing I brought some reading material and by reading material I mean "In-Touch" and "LifeStyle".  Once we got going again we stopped in Bologna for some lunch, another cappuccino and some gelato.  Oh it was yummy!  After a quick walk to stretch our legs we were back on the road.  Because we had dinner reservations later that night in Rome, we drove through Florence straight on to Rome.  Driving into Rome was so exciting!  We had finally made it!  We found our hotel after a few circles around the block looking for parking, checked in, did a quick wardrobe change, then drove to Ristorante Roma Sparita for dinner.  Another known fact, the hubby and I like watching Anthony Bourdain shows, so when I knew I would be visiting Rome, I just had to try out Bourdain's favorite pasta dish at the same restaurant he frequents. (Check out the No Reservations Rome Episode Here).  So yep, I booked a reservation!   We arrived a little late, just two hours (in our defense there was that traffic jam and I did email the restaurant about changing our reservation) so that sat us anyways.  We ordered a bottle of wino, the famous Cacio e Pepe, a salad with steak and mushrooms, and then finished dinner off with chocolate mousse and tiramisu.  Oh it was ALL so amazing! We just happen to meet some Canadians at the next table that we shared some of wine with and chatted.  We closed the restaurant, so we headed back to the hotel for another great day the next day. (For more pictures of Bologna Click Here).


     Saturday... Day three of my trip.  I sent my friend her next note for the day, then we got ready and walked around the Colosseum looking for a place for breakfast before heading to Templum Salutis for two and half hours of pampering.  I signed us up for the Superior Hammam Treatments.  It was great to turn off the cell phones and just relax.  It was our first time being at a Turkish spa and it was so awesome, one of the best one's we have been to.  Afterward we totally worn out, so we headed back to the hotel to just chill out and have a bite to eat from some of the snacks we brought.  Later, we finally headed to the meeting point for our Twilight Trastevere Food Tour.  We met our foodie guide and walked around trying different foods from the local restaurants, bakeries, pizzerias, and deli's.  We had so much fun with the other guests and enjoyed all the food.  It was one of the best food tours I've been on.  Afterward we headed back to the hotel for some rest so we could have another awesome day tomorrow. (For more pictures of our Food Tour Click Here).

     Sunday... Day four of my trip.  I sent my friend her special note for the day, then we got ready and headed to the Colosseum to play tourists.  We redeemed our Skip the Line tickets from City Discovery  for the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum.  We walked, took pictures, walked, took pictures, walked some more, took more pictures.  It was all so amazing and pictures just don't do it justice.  Standing in the Colosseum staring up at the massive ancient walls was an amazing experience, one I will never forget.  After touring the Colosseum we went for some lunch at a local cafe then walked to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill for some sigh seeing.  We walked, took pictures, walked, took pictures, walked some more, took more pictures.  Somehow we wound up in the Jewish Ghetto walking around and even found a place for a gelato and cappuccino break.  When we had enough walking we went back to the hotel to rest up a bit before heading back out to find a place to eat for dinner.  Which we found an amazing little pizzeria in a hidden alleyway.  We were so sad when our last night in Rome ended.  Back to the hotel we went to rest up for our drive up the coast to Pisa in the morning. (For more pictures of the Colosseum Click Here, for more pictures of the Roman Forum Click Here).

     Monday... Day five of my trip.  I sent my friend her daily special note, then we packed up the car, stepped out for a quick breakfast, filled up the car, then headed up the beautiful Mediterranean coast to Pisa.  It was so nice to see the ocean again, haven't seen it since we lived in California four years ago.  When lunch time rolled around we stopped at a restaurant right on the beach.  We both ordered the Farro with fresh shrimp.  Oh. My. Goodness.  It was SO good!  After lunch, we shared an amazing dessert, then got an ice cream to eat while we walked along the beach.   We walked around splashing in the waves and collecting stones and shells.   It was a wonderful break from the drive, which we still needed to complete.  Back in the car, we drove to Pisa to check out the famous tower.  We were both impressed how big of a tower it was and it really was leaning.  We walked around taking pictures and exploring.  Then we found a little spot on a big grassy lawn and just hung out for awhile.  It was great to just be and take in all the history.  When we were ready, back in the car headed for Florence.  Since we skipped through it on the way to Rome, my friend wanted me to see it on our way back.  So she took me to a famous lookout spot that you can see the whole city and the statue of Michelangelo.  We arrived right as the sun started to set.  It was so gorgeous.  We also found a little cafe to enjoy a glass of wine white as we watched the sun go down.   It was the perfect ending to the day.....but we still had to drive through Bologna to my friend's house.  It was going great and we were making good time while singing to pop songs and musicals.  That was until we ran into a HUGE thunderstorm.  I mean, full on lighting flashing across the skies, thundering booming, and thick heavy rain beating down hard.  Once we got to her house around 1am-ish.  We crashed and fell fast asleep.  (For more pictures of the Mediterranean Click Here, for more pictures of Pisa Click Here , for more pictures of Florence  Click Here ). 

     Tuesday....Day six of my trip.  I got up, dressed, packed all my stuff up.  Then we stopped by her daughter's school so I could say hi before I got on my flight.  We had to book it to the airport since we got a late start.  But I made it on time, no problem.   When I boarded my plane I sent my Bestie one last special note thanking her for an amazing six days full of memories.  My flight was on time and smooth, which was great for me.  The hubby and little Miss picked me up and headed home so I could go surprise big Boy at the bus stop. 
     Overall, it was a great visit, one I will never forget. I have tons of pictures from our crazy journey.  I can't wait to see her again and plan another fun adventure.        
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