Category Archives: Italy

Lake Como

We have Jeremy to thank for our stop in Lake Como. The latest Bond film has a scene where 007 is housed up in a super swank hotel overlooking the lake. I’m not sure if it was the beauty of the location that caught Jeremy’s eye or Daniel Craig on the beach. Either way Lake Como turned out to be a serious highlight of my travels.

Lake Como

After spending multiple days eating pasta and sitting on a train, we all agreed that exercise in dire need. So what better way to burn calories than to take a strenuous day hike though the mountains. Our hotel manager told us about a spectacular trek which started in Brunate and ended all the way up in Bellagio. He claimed it should only take us 4 to 5 hours to complete, but it was well worth it.

He was partially correct. The views were spectacular, but it sure wasn’t a 5 hour hike. Our hike ended about half way though and at that point we had been on the trail for over 6 hours. Not knowing what the public transportation would be in these small towns, we decided to cut the trek off early and head down to the closest town to catch a bus back to Como. Trying to calculate the distance on the map I’m pretty sure it would have taken well over 9 hours to complete the whole thing. Which of course would be a stellar day hike if you got an early start, or a nice chill 2 day trek with a night of camping.

I didn’t actually make it outside of the Town of Como, but I’m guessing the rest of the lake towns are just as beautiful. If you are looking for a super chill vacation spot in Italy, then Lake Como should be on the top of your list.

Another option, spend more time in Lake Tahoe of course. :)

More Lake Como Photos

Venice

We only spent one night in Venice. This limited the exploring, but seemed to be plenty of time since Venice tends to be more of a place for couples and not a group of four guys.

Venice...

I was able to get a few shots while we were wandering though the city trying to find a restaurant off the beaten path. James and I were successful. We had very romantic meal together. I’d tell you more about it, but I’m positive I could never find it again. The city streets are super confusing…

Next up Lake Como!

More Venice Photos

Roma…

I meet up with my friends John, Jeremy, and James in Rome. We will be traveling together for the next couple of weeks until they end their trip in Munich for Oktoberfest. I rolled into Rome a couple of days early to wander around the city on my own. Traveling in small groups can slow things down a bit, especially getting everyone out the door in the morning. (One has to make sure their hair looks good, right Jeremy?!)

Rome - Colosseum

The first item on my list was to see the Crypt of the Captuchin Monks. This was suggested to me by a friend of my sisters at her birthday party back in July. Basically they have taken the bones of many monks over the years and reconfigured them into artful crypt displays. For example, skulls with shoulder blades behind them to make wings. Rather creepy, but cool none the less. I highly recommend checking it out and it’s only 1 or 2 euro donation.

Then I headed up toward the Spanish Steps to have lunch and do a bit of people watching. It seems to be a bit overrated to me, it’s just a bunch of steps and the Fontana della Barcaccia (“Fountain of the Old Boat”) in the Piazza di Spagna. Apparently if you drink the water from the fountain you will live forever, I managed to take a sip we’ll see if that comes true.

After lunch I wandered over to the Trevi Fountain. I didn’t stay long since it was crawling with tourists. I was planning on going back at night to see it all lit up which is much more impressive. Romans also claim this fountain has mystical powers. If one tosses a coin over their left shoulder with their right hand which ends up crossing your heart, then you will be sure to return to Rome. Again I followed the rules to a tee, so lets see if I make it back.

Next was to make my way to the Colosseum, in the process I ran into the Pantheon by accident. Unfortunately, it was roped off for Sunday mass so I was unable to walk around the whole building. It’s neat to see they still use it for regular service. Although it was in Latin which is just as good as my Italian, nonexistent, thus there was no way of knowing what they were saying. It was a pretty long day so I went back to the hotel and called it an early night.

Vatican City was on order for the first day with the 3Js. St Peters Basilica is rather amazing. But at this point I’m getting really burnt out on churches. What made this a bit more interesting is the book I am reading, Dan Brown’s – Angels and Daemons, which is set in Rome. (Same dude who wrote ‘The Da vinci Code’) So of course I have been looking around at all of the sculptures to see ones he points out in the book. After about an hour of wandering around in there we went into the Vatican Museum. My plan was to run through it and only see some key pieces of work, but with the main goal of seeing the Sistine Chapel. Amazing to think Michelangelo spent over 4 years just to complete the ceiling. Unfortunatly, I couldn’t get “Arestted Development” episode where they depict the Last Judgement. None the less it was breath taking.

After 3 or 4 hours of Vatican City I was ready for a gelato. There is a shop just outside the Vatican wall which was probably the second best gelato I’ve had in Italy. (It’s hard to beat the place in Florance) I’m going to go though withdrawal symptoms when I leave Italy.

John booked us a condo in the Traverse neighborhood. This was a great change of pace from the hostels I have been staying at the past few weeks. It’s a great neighborhood, a lot of excellent family run restaurants, and hip bars and cafes which locals actually go to.
Rome has turned out to be my favorite big city on this trip. Italians tend to be very patient with Americans. Even if they don’t understand a word of English, they work hard to communicate with you, and I’ve found hand motions can really get the job done. They never seem to be put off which really makes traveling here much more enjoyable, than say France. I starting to see Italian lessons in my future.

Rome Photos…

Amalfi Coast

After three solid weeks of sight seeing in some major cities, I finally found myself some sun and a beach. I’m really enjoying myself traveling, but at times it’s not exactly relaxing. I’m finding it hard to get myself to just kick back and chill, there is too much to do and see in each city.

Amalfi Coast

So I ended up staying in the town of Amalfi for three days and then decided to head up to Sorrento for another two mainly to hit up the Island of Carpi. In retrospect, I probably should have just stayed in Almalfi the whole time and done a the Capri day trip from there. Oh well learn as you go…

As you may know the Amalfi Coast is nothing short of spectacular. The beaches on the other hand are not the best. You can see in this photo all of Capri beaches are rock and with a coast line like this there’s very little beach area in Amalfi itself and that tends to be privately owned. The hostel I was staying at had a bit of beach which was designated as theirs, but the catch was one would have to walk down 700 steps to reach it. Make that 1000 if you include the extra 300 it took to get from the house to the main road. So I either opted for the super small stretch of “public” beach which was packed with cheap bastards like myself or just ponied up the 8 to 12 euro to rent a chair and umbrella.

Capri is definitely worth a day trip. I took an boat tour around the island to see some of the key spots like the Blue Grotto. Afterwards I found out there are some great walking trails which will get you to these same key spots, but instead of being confined to the boat and seeing it for 5 minutes you can pack a lunch your towel and spend a few hours instead. If I had know about this earlier on in the day I would have definitely opted for that instead.

If you are looking for a killer beach then head some where else like Kauai or the Islands, but if you like to see views like this in with your morning coffee in hand then it’s going to be hard to beat Amalfi.

Next up Rome where I meet up with John, Jeremy, and James. I’m going to need all of my energy reserves, because it sounds like we are going to see everything in double time. I may need to hit another beach by the time Oktoberfest is over.

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Napoli…

After spending 3 solid weeks of sight seeing in London, Belgium, Amsterdam, Pairs, Florance, and Tuscany I felt it was time to relax a bit. The plan was to head to Amalfi for some beach time.

One way to get to Amalfi is to take a bus from Naples, so I decide to stop their for a night and ended up extending it to 3. I didn’t spend too much time in the actual city other than at night for food and heading out to the bar for a couple of drinks new friends I meet at the hostel (6 Small Rooms, great place to stay for cheap accommodations).

Mt Vesuvius

I made a couple of quick trips down to check out Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius. Pompeii is an ancient roman town that was buried by the volcano Mt Vesuvius when it erupted back in (look this up…).

To get some exercise, I went and hiked Mt Vesuvius hike. Unfortunately, they bus you up most of the way, so it wasn’t all that much exercise. Now it’s not exactly easy, but if you take your time anyone can make it to the top. The views of Naples and Sorrento from up here are fantastic, but the cafe/souvenirs shop at the top tend to take away from the experience.

Now my view on Napoli itself. The people seem to live in the now. They treat their city as a garbage dump and it really shows. It’s a complete shit hole, every monument has graffiti, kids are out in the Piazzas late at night drinking and smashing bottles. It tends to makes the whole city feel much more seedy than it actually is.

If you can look beyond this, you can almost see the beauty in the city. This is probably the first time since NYC where I felt I had to double back, because I made a wrong turn down an alley way and may not like what I find if I continued forward..

Anyway, if you find yourself in Naples keep your eye on your pocketbook, check out a few key sights in the city. Make an effort to get yourself a slice of pizza (it’s where it was invented), then high tail it down to Sorrento for the night where you can relax in a nicer environment.

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Toscany…

Sorry it has taking so long to get you all up to date with my travels. Looking at the date stamped on these photos I seem to be 2 weeks behind. YIKES!

Well I spent two full days driving around Toscana with Allyson and her co-workers. We visited about 4 or 5 different hill towns, some super fancy hotels, and ran though all of the bike and hiking routes for their upcoming cycling trip that they lead the following week.

Tuscany

At times it felt a bit rushed, they had 6 days of activities to familiarize themselves with in the two days. But since they had to meet with various managers to verify accommodations, walk though each town to know exactly where important stuff was located, like food, ATMs, cool art and craft shops, so they could direct their guests in the right direction. I was able to break away and explore each area on my own. Thus it really worked out well.

The trips they run may seem a bit on the pricey side, this one was 6 days of cycling and ran around $4000. But after seeing the activities they have set up for the guest, the hotels where they are staying, some of the meals that were included, and the pure beauty of the area, it would take a lot of work on your part in planning to get something as nice as this for less money. So it looks like a pretty darn good deal to me.

For example, one of the night activities the group heads over to a winery (I don’t have the name…) and learn how to make their own Peace. It’s a type of pasta, I had it that night with Cinghiale (wild boar) sauce and it was very tasty. After that they head over to the tasting room to drink test out some of the wine, with the hopes they all buy multiple cases. Once that’s over then they sit down for a super deluxe meal. Now that is just one of the nights, there are only a few times throughout the trip which they have to fend for themselves. So yeah, pretty nice indeed.

Anyway, I was able to see some of the best spots in all of Southern Tuscany. I’m sure this is going to be an upcoming destination for a cycling trip of my own in the next couple of years.

So thanks to Allyson for letting me tag along and Raphael for introducing me to Grappa!

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Firenze (aka, Florence)

Some tips from Firenze:

If you have a train ride which is going to take over 10 hours from one place to another your best do it overnight. Why?! Well you can sleep though most of it unlike an overnight flight you get your own fold out bed, albeit with 5 other people in the same compartment, this also saves your one night stay in an expensive hotel room. If you are a bit social, you may even meet some interesting people along the way… Pretty darn nice.

Firenze...
Now if that overnight trip lands you in the city say 5 hours before you are allowed to check into your hotel. Then go straight to the bathroom and clean yourself up (wash face, shave, brush teeth, change clothes, extra swipe of deodorant, etc.) Then check your bags into a locker and head out on the town.

If it’s Sunday and you find yourself in Italy then pretty much 2/3 of the city is going to be closed. So my suggestion, which is taken from a couple of girls I meet in Pairs, take one of the open top tour buses which rip though the city at mock speed. You get a pair of earphones to tune into the language of your choice and it gives you an overview of each attraction as you drive by. You can get on and off the bus at each place if you like to check it out, but I was using this to cool off, relax and check out what I would like to see in the next couple of days. If you like stay on the bus for multiple loops and listen to the tour in a different language, like Italian, you may learn a new word or two.

Okay enough with the tips for now…

I meet my friend Allyson at the train station, she was coming in from Utah and taking the train up from Rome. I’ve known her for quite some time, actually since grade school. I hadn’t talked to her since our high school graduation, but randomly got connected about 3 months ago though Facebook. Got to love geek social network software…

I wanted to take Florence in at an easy pace. We walked through Santa Croche Cathedral on the second day, had some of the best gelato in the city, and then walked for ever in the park and found a horse race track, and the velodrome which people were training on. The third day we walked though the Boboli Gardens and had more gelato, of course! We spend a lot of time just wandering though the city, and the food was just great fantastic…

I will be coming back to Florence in a couple of weeks with my friends John, James, and Jeremy (who I haven’t meet, but he’s John’s brother so we’re friends by association, right?!)

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Next up?! Tuscana: good wine, cheese, and ummm… more wine!!!