This trip to Italy couldn't have come at a better time. Work has been busy and really frustrating lately and I've been a lot more irritable and unmotivated because of it. Between two busy work schedules and two dogs, getting out of town is tough and takes a lot of arrangements. But once we stepped foot on the plane I was able to take a deep breath and just chill out for the rest of the trip. It didn't hurt that we got upgraded to first class and got to lay down flat the whole way to Italy!
We spent the first two days of the trip in Florence. We were there 10 years ago, and it was one of my favorite cities, so I was so excited to be back and take it all in again. This time with a camera (I guess 10 years ago I figured my nimble little memory would retain it all...I was very wrong. Damn concussions.). It was even more beautiful and enjoyable this time. The architecture is so amazing, some of the churches we went in were built in the 13th Century, like before Mr. Columbus was even born.
We did a lot of walking, eating and of course some shopping, despite the less than ideal conversion rate. Here are some highlights from Florence. I posted a whole crap ton of pics on Facebook, so go there for the full monty.
Hotel Brunelleschi - right in the heart of the city, about a block from the Duomo
The Arno River with the Ponte Vecchio in the background
13th Century Church (it had a name, but of course I forgot it)
Shopping (I was deciding between two colors so took pictures of myself in each so I could decide the one I liked. The green won.)
Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace (home of the Medici family)
Too many good captions - don't know where to start. Poor turtle comes to mind first.
We had our fair share of gelato, but this one took the er, cone. Doug asked for a small waffle cone with two flavors (as had a bunch of people ahead of us) and the girl just kept dumping ice cream on his cone and laughing. When we got up to the register she looked at the cashier, they both laughed and then he said 14 euros. Ughh. We got totally taken and most of that stupid thing ended up in the garbage can.
On Saturday morning we headed to the train station for our voyage to Santa Margherita, a coastal town on the Mediterranean Sea. Our friends got married there 10 years ago, so we were on our way to meet up with them and bunch of friends to celebrate their anniversary. Their official anniversary party was on Sunday night, so once we got into town, we checked into our hotel and made our way to the "beach."
The Imperiale Palace
Views from our room
There aren't really sandy beaches anywhere in this area, but there are big rock outcroppings that the cabana boys/lifeguards set up chairs on. Swimming in the sea is a very salty, but refreshing experience. One of the hotels near us had a big water trampoline set up in their little swimming area, so naturally, our group took it over and made asses of ourselves doing flips off the thing. Luckily, we had some kids in the group, so we claimed that we were just trying to entertain the kids, really we were just a bunch of immature adults putting on a show for the people on the beach.
Saturday night we met up with a bunch of friends and went to a long dinner of catching up over delicious food and good wine. We hadn't seen most of the people since the wedding 10 years ago, so it was so great to get reacquainted.
Sunday morning Doug and I went for an awesome trail run up and over the mountain to the neighboring, posh town of Portofino. We had hiked this trail the last time we were there and thought we would take it up a notch and run it this time around...yowsers! 8.5 miles, hundreds of steps and lots of hills later, we made it to beautiful Portofino.
A little picture break
After our run we hung out on the beach and trampoline until it was time to get all gussied up for the party. The anniversary party was held at the same abbey that they got married at, so we knew we were in for a spectacular evening. This place was way up in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean.
Entrance to the Abbey
The beautiful bride and groom 10 years later. Now Gretchen is a high-powered Hollywood entertainment lawyer that just got partnered and Dan just released his first movie that he wrote and produced - Everything Must Go, starring Will Ferrell! And they have 3 beautiful little ones running around. So, yeah, 10 years have treated them right.
Italian Prom 2011
We ate, drank wine and danced the night away. And then as the night was finishing up, they rolled up a gelato cart and we all desserted!
The owners of the abbey (now good friends of Dan and Gretchen's) surprised them by lighting and floating 3,000 candles out into the sea to light up the whole port. It was such an incredible sight. They did this 10 years ago too and it was one of the most vivid memories I had from their wedding.
This picture totally sucks and doesn't do it justice, but if you look closely, you see the thousands of little lights in the water.
The next day we woke up late, wandered town and then chilled on the beach with everyone for the rest of the day. After one more dinner out in town, it was time to pack up for our morning flight back home. We were originally supposed to fly from Genoa to Rome, Rome to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to JFK. Luckily we got a call on Sunday saying that our flights were canceled and they had rebooked us on a flight to Paris and then to JFK, cutting out one of our layovers and getting us home earlier than the original flight. The best part was that they gave us each 300 euro's for our troubles. Sweet! This would never happen in the US! Our plane from Paris to JFK was a double decker monster!! I've never seen one of these things, but it was gigantic...holding 540 people. It was like being on the Titanic and yes, we were on the bottom deck and probably would not have been saved.
All in all we had a fabulous trip and came back with tighter pants, nice tans and a few less bags under our eyes.