Day 1



Hello Family!

Today Will and I had a WONDERFUL day. We got up early to find that it was absolutely pouring outside (torrential downpour, Will says). But, hoping that the rain would let up, we set off to the Colloseum for day one of Roman tourism. We first stopped at the Basilica di San Clemente, a 12th C basilica built on top of 5th C ruins (says Will). It was pretty cool, but mostly it was just a great place to stop and get out of the downpour. (I should note that Will and I were sharing a tiny umbrella and had wisely chosen not to bring rain gear as it took up too much space. We both ended up with our pants completely soaked from running through puddles and being sprayed by passing cars, but we had fun.)

When the rain let up we started walking towards the Colloseum and decided to stop at a cafe to get cappuccinos and a croissant, all of which were amazing. We relaxed there for a bit trying to learn some Italian phrases from Rick Steve's Italian phrase book (thanks Aunt Sara and Uncle John!) while we waited for the rain to stop. We then went on to the Colloseum, which was one of the best parts of the day. We walked around on our own for a bit and then took an English guided tour, which was so wonderful. We spent a lot of time there cause it is just so cool and then went over to the Roman Forum, which was also awesome. It had gotten really nice and sunny so Will and I sat on a rock in the sun and read about early Roman history in our Lonely Planet guide book. Reading about the history is so much more interesting when you can see it.

By this time it was getting kind of late, but we decided to pop into the Museo di Capitalino because it's so famous. They were having an exhibit about Archimedes, which was so so interesting cause we've used his theories in all of our physics classes.
We then went to the Spanish Steps, where we got dinner and sat for a bit on the steps. So many people approached us to try to sell us stuff that it took away from the peace a bit, but I guess that's what you get in Rome!

We're off to bed now to get some rest before exploring the heart of Rome tomorrow. I've attached some pictures just so you know we're still alive and kickin!

Love you all.
Elizabeth and Will 

Day 2



Dear all,

Tonight is my turn to take up the mantle of eurotrip historian so here it goes!!! We got to a late start today because both of our backs and lower appendages were barely operational from excessive walking, but we eventually sucked it up and dragged ourselves down to the piazza navona. At the piazza we had some amazing gelato! (I could practically taste the strawberry patch in mine.....and this is no small accomplishment considering my refined berry palate ;)....).

We then sat down at a modest restaurant looking out onto the piazza, only to get up 90 seconds later after we realized it was a horribly overpriced tourist trap. After sticking it to the Man, we walked a few blocks away from the piazza and popped Into a bakery/pizzeria to order some cheap hybrid pizza/sandwiches....???...I guess ( we don't know what exactly they were, the owners only spoke Italian so we pointed and grunted our lunch orders) But they tasted good and the PRICE WAS RIGHT!

On to pantheon which was really great. The building is 2000 years old and the exterior is in great shape! Inside I paid my respects to the grave of my home boy Raphael, while Elizabeth marvelled at the mathematical beauty of the  pantheon's rotunda.  Both of us had a swell time.

After the breath taking pantheon, we decided to hop on the metro to sceedaddle on down to the ancient baths, only to find out the place would close in 30 minutes. Curse you Lonely Planet! We decided to cut our losses and hang out in the beatiful villa borgese where we sat down under a massive statue of a horseman and shared some more gelatto.

After the park, we headed back to our accommodations and picked up some food from a local grocery shop and pizza joint by utilizing our outstanding italian langauge skills. everything was great (including the cooked fennel!) It was a pretty good day but we are deffinitely in need of some much needed rest before we enter the big leagues tomorrow.....Vatican city.

Until next time, this is Will, signing off.

Day 3



Hello again family!!

Today was our last day in Rome and we had planned to do the Trevi Fountain and Vatican City (the two big things we had left). As we've been paying attention to the weather ever since we got caught in that minor flood on Friday, we knew that it was supposed to rain this afternoon and thus decided to wake up early and go to the Trevi in the morning and then hike on over to Vatican City for the rest of the day. Yet when we got to the metro station to head across town to the Trevi, we found all the entrances closed with huge metal doors. After staring at these doors for some time in bewildered, hopeless awe, a kind woman came and explained to us that the workers on metro line A had decided to go on strike today, so the line wouldn't be running. So even though it was supposed to rain in the afternoon, we decided to flop our day around and head off to Vatican City.

On our way to Vatican City we stopped at a cafe and got some cappuccinos and AMAZING pastries in an effort to fuel up for our long day of Vatican City exploring. On our way to St Peter's Square, we kept getting verbally assaulted by people trying to sell tours of the Vatican museums. I (Elizabeth) was getting very frustrated and told one of the guys that I didn't want to do a tour because I felt like everybody in Rome is trying to rip us off. We kept walking and were stopped by someone else trying to sell tours who said that he had overheard what we said about feeling like everyone was trying to scam us. He said that while Italians are nice,they're sleezy (he was Australian). He said that the big selling point of the tours was that you could skip the lines, but because the metro to the Vatican wasn't operating today, the crowds weren't bad at all. Even though he was working trying to sell tours, he saw how frustrated we were and was honest that it wouldn't be worth our money. It's nice to see there are people in Rome who don't try to take advantage of you (even if they aren't Italian.)

We first went to St Peter's Basilica, as our new Australian friend said that the Vatican Museums would be less crowded in the afternoon after most of the tours had finished. St Peter's Basilica is one of the most incredible, beautiful, awe-inspiring places I have ever been to. We spent well over an hour soaking in the beauty and trying to eavesdrop on English-speaking tours. One of the best things was seeing Michelangelo's Pieta, which was, as Lonely Planet described it, hauntingly beautiful.

We then headed over to the Vatican Museums, for which there was NO LINE!! We bought a book to guide us around the museum and then headed off to the Sistine Chapel (we figured we'd start with the most important things to see and work backwards, just in case we got tired). The Sistine Chapel was, of course, wonderful, but it was so crowded that we couldn't sit, the room is horribly lit by tiny windows at the top so it was hard to see, and it is physically painful to crane your neck for such a long time. So needless to say, it wasn't our favorite place. We then headed off to Raphael's room - a room that Pope Julius II wanted to become his library and commisioned Raphael to paint. We sat down on the floor and spent about half an hour reading the book and examining the frescoes, which were incredible. Raphael's paintings depict his ideas about philosophy, theology, poetry, and law, and they're fascinating to behold.

After the Vatican Museums closed, we finally headed off to the Trevi Fountain before the rain :)

Sorry this was long. We're heading to Florence tomorrow and may not have internet, so it may be a day or two before we email again. Will wants me to stop writing now, so I am now signing off!

Elizabeth and Will

Day 4



Hello again family!

While we expected that this email would start with our accounts of our first day in Florence, the eventfulness of our day actually began much much earlier.

When preparing to leave Rome,  everything was going to plan. I, being paranoid as usual, had left us more than enough time to get ready. We were only running 10 minutes behind schedule when we finally closed the door to Max and Daniella's. We went to leave the building and realized that the door to exit was locked and could only be opened with they key that we had just locked in the room. After a moment of panic, we remembered that yesterday we had seen a door propped open that we had believed led to a courtyard. So we went out the door, me first and Will following. As soon as I turned the corner, I realized that this "courtyard" was actually an outdoor parking lot for the tenants' cars, was surrounded by fences ten feet high, and had absolutely no exit. I turned back to tell Will not to close the door, but it had just closed and we were completely stuck. I rapped on the door and had a minor panic attack while Will scoured the perimeter looking for a way out. Will, the innate climber that he is, found a segment of the fence that we could climb. He was confident that we could get over it while I was terrified that someone would see us scaling this fence on private property and freak out. After finally admitting to myself that this was the only way out, we began the climb. After waiting for a group of old ladies to pass, Will took both of our 20 lb bags and scaled the fence. I tossed over our day bags and then scaled the fence myself, getting black streaks all over my legs and white shirt. We picked ourselves up, looked around to make sure no one was calling the cops, and headed off for the train station.

I wish I could say that the train ride was uneventful, but just as Grammy said about her trips in Italy, when we got to our seats they were already taken. The woman in our seat was Eastern European (we believe), and incredibly rude. We didn't have any language in common, but after much strained arguing she finally got up and went to the seat she had been assigned (which had been empty the whole time).

When we finally arrived in Florence, we set off to find our host, Mirela, who was picking us up at the station. To our relief, we had no problem at all finding her. When I say she is the most incredible host we could have dreamed of having, I mean it. She greeted us with hugs and kisses and helped us buy bus tickets, then we began the short journey to her home. She's a French teacher at a school for troubled kids, which is awesome for me because I got an opportunity to start practicing my French! She talked to us about Florence, about her life, and bunches of other things. When we got to her home, she said she was going to make some pasta and asked if we'd like to have some with her. Of course we said yes. She then told us that there's a local market and that we should check it out while she made the pasta, so off we went! The market was huge! We got her some flowers to thank her for being so awesome. I attached a picture. (The river in the background is the Arno, Sara B.). Lunch with Mirela was great and we got to keep chatting with her, which we loved. We then headed off to the city center to start exploring!

We decided to start off by seeing David because we knew we'd have to wait in line and we still had some planning to do for what else we wanted to see. We had to wait quite a while, but the wait was worth it. David is breathtaking. We sat on benches for a bit and just talked about him. I think one of the most impressive things for me is how Michelangelo knew how to keep David standing! I can't even imagine how heavy he is and he's only supported by his feet and a little tree stump thing!

We then went to get some cappuccinos (of course) and wandered around beautiful Florence. We went into an olive oil shop and talked with the owner about olive oils and balsamic vinegars while we tasted some of his best varieties. We then went into a used book shop so Will could look for a cool copy of Dante's Divine Comedy in Italian (Dante was from Florence). The owner had organized the books into completely disorganized piles (you can see in the pic). We finally made our way to the Ponte Veccio, where we had an amazing dinner on the Arno and took some beautiful pictures of the sunset.

After dinner we did some more wandering around Florence. We spent some time sitting in a piazza listening to an older man play soothing music on his guitar, which was one of the most peaceful experiences we've had so far on this trip. We then came across a huge crowd circled around a magician/actor giving a show. We finally made our way home and had a great conversation with Mirela about our day.

It's getting pretty late and we have a big day planned for tomorrow, but so far I can say we LOVE LOVE LOVE Florence.

Until tomorrow!

Elizabeth and Will

Day 5



Hi family!

Sorry we haven't written in some time. We had to get up super early yesterday morning to take a train to Cinque Terre and we've had some difficulty getting wireless here. We had a wonderful day going to the Pitti Palace, the Boboli gardens, Dante's house, and wandering around Florence.

The night before (the first night in Florence), we had asked Mirela about doing laundry because she had advertised that she had a washing machine. She told us to fill the washer with our clothes and put our detergent in the machine and that she would run it in the morning (so running the machine wouldn't wake up anyone in the building). When we woke up in the morning, Mirela had not only run the washing machine, but she had hung up all our clothes on the line!!

She made us coffee in a cool little device that apparently every Italian family has. It's a little metal thing that you put water in the bottom of, then fill a little thing above it with coffee grinds, and then on top of that you put a litle kettle looking thing. Then you put this whole contraption on the stove and wait for it to start steaming, and then you have coffee! It was really cool but the coffee tasted the same as regular coffee (nowhere near as good as those cappuccinos we've been having), so I'd rather be super American and use the coffee maker.

We then sat down with Mirela for a while and had an incredible conversation about religion, different cultures, parenting, and so many other things. Her English is amazing, so we had no trouble communicating (except for some very specific words). Sitting and talking with her made us a bit late in getting out of the house, but it was totally worth it.

After stopping at a local market to grab some fruit for our snacks throughout the day, we headed off to the Pitti Palace. We spent a bunch of time wandering around the palace and seeing the exhibits. It's astounding how much art the Medici family had had made for them. Every room has all the walls and the ceiling beautifully painted and every room had crazy lavish touches like gold molding or massive gold frames. Will and I talked about how if we'd been commoners during the time of the Medici's, we would have been pretty pissed about how extravagantly the Medici's lived. Then the gardens were incredible. There were a bunch of gigantic bathtubs in the courtyards; we couldn't quite figure out why anyone would ever need bathtubs that big. The grottos were probably the best part. In one of the grottos, there were four partially completed sculptures (imprisoned people or something) and we were like, "those look like the sculptures Michelangelo made that are in the Academia!" And lo and behold, they were!! They had commissioned Michelangelo to make them for the grotto and now the originals are in the Academia with his David. So cool!

We next went to Dante's house because Will is in love with Dante. It was ok, but it was sort of a letdown after the Pitti Palace.

We were obviously hungry by this point (we're always hungry) so we walked around for a while trying to find a place near the Arno with cheap wine (our goal was €3 per glass). We finally found a place and had a wonderful meal.

For all you Batman fans out there, you may remember that in the Dark Knight Rises, there's a scene where Alfred is trying to convince Bruce not to sacrifice himself for the people of Gotham. He talks about this dream he has that he'd be sitting at a cafe on the banks of the Arno drinking a Fernet Brenca and he'd see Bruce from afar and he would know that Bruce is happy. SO Will and I of course had to find a cafe on the banks of the Arno and have a Fernet Brenca. SO WE DID. And get this, we went to a restaurant called "Alfredo Sull Arno." Fate? Coincidence? No one knows...

We wandered around Florence a bit more and saw all the crazy jewelry shops on the Ponte Vecchio (Grammy, this must have been where Granddad got you that ring you mentioned!!) We then went to bed in order to prepare for our travel to Cinque Terre!!

I'm not sure how the internet will be when we get to Cinque Terre. We're staying with a woman whose house is right in the middle of a farm where they grow organic vegetables and olive trees! They're just a 20 min walk to the beach and it's a five min walk to the train station, from which you can take local trains to all the towns in Cinque Terre. They also have all kinds of animals, like cats, dogs chickens, and sheep, so we think we're going to have a great time :) 

Until next time!

Xoxo, Elizabeth and Will

Day 6


Cinque Terre

Hello Again Family!

So once again, our travel from Florence to Cinque Terre was not quite as easy as we would have liked. We were taking three separate trains, so we had two connections we had to make. When we got to the station in Florence, we saw that our train was 25 min delayed, which was a huge problem because our first layover was only 19 min! When we arrived at our first connection, we ran through the train station trying to find our connecting train in the hopes that it had also been delayed. And what do you know, it was!!

When we finally made it to Levanto (the town we're staying in that has trains that connect it to all the towns of Cinque Terre), our host Grazia picked us up and brought us back to her home. Let me tell you, we are in heaven. She lives on a beautiful farm and we have a window that overlooks it all. She has two horses and they graze right outside our window! The views from here are amazing, with the farm right in front of us and the green mountains in the background. We spent some time talking to Grazia when we first arrived and she told usball about the different things we can do here. She was emphatic that we should go on a hike from here (Levanto) to Monterosso (the northernmost of the Cinque Terre towns). So we did!

The hike was beautiful, but it was way more difficult than we were expecting. It was about three and a half hours of hiking up a mountain with just our normal sneakers on, but every time the trees cleared and we saw the coast, it was breathtaking. Towards the end of it all, we climbed up to a rock from which we could see all five of the Cinque Terre towns. It was more beautiful than I could have imagined and it was well worth all the effort to get us there. Unfortunately, our phones had died so we took pictures on our cameras, so we can't show you now :(

When we finally got to the bottom of the mountain, we rewarded ourselves with lots and lots of gelato. Then we decided that we were far too gross to be in normal civilization so we went back to change for dinner! We then went to Vernazza for dinner, where we ate at a BEAUTIFUL restaraunt perched on the side of a mountain over the water. It mostly served seafood and the wine was cheaper than the water. Will got a plate of a bunch of different fried seafood. He really liked it, but for the most part he didn't actually know what he was eating. After dinner, we got on a train back home and went to sleep!!

Until tomorrow!
Elizabeth and Will

Day 7


Cinque Terre

Hello again family!

 We woke up this morning to the sound of birds chirping and sheep baying outside our window. After getting dressed for the day, we went downstairs to a little dining room where breakfast had been prepared for the guests. It was a bit of a lighter fare than what we're used to (as is the Italian way), but it was enough to last a little bit.

It was an incredibly beautiful day - the perfect day for town hopping and beach walking. We first headed to the town of Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the Cinque Terre towns. It was tiny and didn't have much beach access, so it wasn't as great as we had thought it would be. The town is mostly known for water sports, but we weren't planning to do any of that so it didn't hold much interest for us. We grabbed some cappuccinos (of course) and then headed off to Corniglia.

Corniglia is the middle Cinque Terre town and is perched high on a hill. You can either wall up 365 steps to get the top (one for every day of the year) or take a bus. Given our fatigue after yesterday's crazy hike, we chose the bus. We had done some research about the beaches in Cinque Terre and we knew that there was a great beach in between the towns of Corniglia and Vernazza that you could walk to from Corniglia. So, we went to a little shop in town and bought bread, pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, and spicy salami (for Will of course) to take for a picnic when we got to the beach.

Walking the trail was absolutely beautiful. As I said, Corniglia is on top of a big hill and all along the side of the mountain are vineyards and olive orchards. Walking through it was absolutely breathtaking. After about half an hour, we found a little sign indicating the path towards the beach. We stood at the top of this path and nervously looked down, for it looked RIDICULOUSLY steep. But, we had decided to have a picnic on this beach, so off we went. The sign had said that the beach was 20 min away, but that was an absolute lie. It was at least an hour of the most perilous hiking I have ever experienced. And to paint a beautiful picture for you, you should know that I was wearing a white dress and very simple running shoes - not at all the proper attire for this hike. We literally skidded down steep stretches of "trail," climbed through briar patches, and crawled through bamboo tunnels. I was practically in tears, fearing that we would tumble down the side of the cliff. Yet FINALLY, after the most frightening "walk" I have ever been on, we arrived at an absolutely stunning beach. It was a bit rocky, but it was so secluded and it was perched between two incredibly high mountains. We laid out our towel (we brought the one Lady Gaga gave me because it's thin - thank you Kiki!) and set up our wonderful lunch. And while the food here is naturally amazing, after everything we had just experienced, let me tell you that this was the best food I had ever had.

We spent probably three hours at the beach just relaxing in the sun. Yet we kept looking around and thinking that since there weren other people on the beach, there MUST be an easier way to get to the beach. So when we wanted to leave, we asked an Italian man how to get back to Corniglia. He was leaving too and said that he would show us how to get back. At first we were walking through beautiful trees overlooking the water and then, almost suddenly, we were walking through an abandoned train tunnel. For about one kilometer, we walked in complete darkness trying to see by the light of our phones. Our new Italian friend kept saying that this was like the movies. What he meant was that this was like a horror film where somebody or something could jump out at any moment. After I realized what he meant, the ride took on a whole new meaning. It only took about twenty to thirty minutes to walk back from the beach and the whole walk was completely horizontal. If only someone had shown us the way before we climbed down the mountainside.

When we finally made it back to the train station, we took a train to Manerola, the only town we had left to visit. We walked around for a bit, but we were completely exhausted. So we came back to the farm to get some sleep and get ready for Lake Como!!

Love you all!
Elizabeth and Will