In 2016, work sent me to Lyon, France and Milano, Italy. I couldn't let an opportunity like this go to waste, so I took the next week to explore Italy on my own. It was a quick trip but I fell in love with the country.
My adventure began in Lyon, France. I had a day to myself so I took off on foot to explore old town Lyon. I'm a sucker for baked goods, so I found a cute bakery and hand-signaled my way to a meal. I took my breakfast to go and climbed up a steep pathway of cobblestone stairs. At the top I found a comfy perch atop ancient roman ruins to enjoy the view and my tasty pastry. The ruins are still used today as an outdoor amphitheater - so cool.
Nearby is the giant Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière on a hill overlooking the town. To get an even better view of the church and city, I signed up for a tour of the four spires. I found out shortly that the entire tour was in French! Some local high school girls saw this as an opportunity to practice their English, so they roughly translated for me as best they could. Even though I couldn't understand most of what was said, the tour was so worth it for the views. The inside of the church was covered in shiny gold mosaic and I got to get up close and personal! I also got to go inside the bell tower – right as the bells began to ring!! But the best part was the view of the city. Wow. The red rooftops and windy cobblestone streets of old Lyon town are just beautiful.
The next stop on my work trip was Milano, Italy to visit a hospital and a doctor we'd been working with. In the evening I climbed up the stairs to the top of the Duomo. What a crazy building! I just loved the spires and gargoyles.
With the end of my work trip began my solo Italian adventure. I only had 8 days, but I saw as much as I could.
My first stop was Venice. Apparently a storm had just been through and with it went the traditional smells of the sunken city. All was sunny and beautiful when I arrived, with not a whiff of sea in the air. I wandered the streets and soaked in the history and atmosphere of this unique place. Once you get away from the main squares, you start to find more interesting sites - a local store with books for sale lined up on the wall of the canal, school children kicking a ball in the square, and a hospital with ambulance boats. My trip happened to fall on the festival of Redentore, so I got to see a spectacular fireworks display illuminate Saint Mark's Square. It lasted nearly a full hour!!
My favorite part of Venice was Burano. I hopped a bus boat toward the end of the day when the tourists were heading home and the shops began to close up. This was perfect timing because I got to wander the nearly empty streets and see the bright colors of the buildings at golden hour - while enjoying gelato. The sight was truly spectacular. I could have stayed there all day. The coolest thing was as dinner time came, the locals – mostly seniors it seems – pulled out chairs and food and sat together in the courtyards and squares sharing stories together. It was so fun to watch this happy sight away from the busy tourist areas.
After Venice came Rome. How cool is it that the city just keeps rebuilding over top of centuries of existing structures? Modern buildings have roman ruins as their foundations and random ancient pillars embedded in their walls. I also love all the statues and ornate carvings everywhere (even chimneys).
I have three favorite places in rome: 1) The Pantheon– I don’t know why but I really loved this place, and the sunlight column concept is pretty neat. 2) The Coliseum – duh, it’s colossal! Pro tip: visit the coliseum at the end of the day and stay until the security guards make you leave. There are far fewer tourists then so you can better enjoy yourself and have fewer people in your photos! And 3) the catacombs. Maybe I’m weird, but the detailed artworks made from human bone are perhaps the coolest art I’ve ever seen. The catacomb part itself is very small, but I spent at least an hour in there. You’re not allowed to take photos and there is a guard watching the area so I followed the rules. But here are some of my other photos:
The ruins of Pompeii were next on my journey. I’ve read about the disaster, but what a surreal experience to actually be there. The city was huge! I had no idea it was that big. I only got to see a part of it. Here’s a neat tidbit: the city had large rocks for pedestrian cross walks with grooves in them for cart wheels to pass. What a cool way to keep people out of the streets.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Possibly my favorite part of my trip was exploring the Amalfi Coast. I’m not a beach person. I like to go do stuff and see stuff and keep moving, so I wasn’t excited about a coastal vacation. But I found some awesome things to do. The first was a lift ride to the top of a cliff on the Island of Capri. Picture a chair lift but with only one seat going up over cute homes and then colorful flowers. At the top was a beautiful view of the turquoise blue water and funky rock formations of the coast far below.
The second – and my favorite – adventure on the coast was the Sentiero degli Dei - “Path of the Gods”. I took a tiny bus up a super curvy, narrowly-miss-going-over-the-edge road to the middle of nowhere to begin an epic coastal hike. The trail winds in and out of the coves of the coastline way way way up above it. You get both beautiful coast views and vine-covered paths. It was a great way to end my trip.
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