✈ Europe | Florence | Part II

Catch up on our grand European adventure: Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I

Day 3: I had caught a slight cold/fever so we slept in before having a very adventurous afternoon. We grabbed pizza (rosemary potato) off the street and supplies at the covered market (bread, prosciutto, brie, swiss cheese, and fruit) and picnicked in a park by a gorgeous synagogue.  We told the shop staff at the market that we wanted just a small slice of cheese… little did we know the wheel was huge and thus we ended up a massive chunk. After lunch we hiked up to Piazzale Michalangelo to take in the absolutely amazing views. If Florence hadn’t already stolen my heart, she definitely would have once we reached the overlook! It was incredible. After many minutes spent marveling and taking pictures – we headed to the road where we were lucky to stumble upon an empty, walled trail that lead us back down to the river and the city. We wandered the medieval streets before ending up at the Palazzo Pitti. The palace was purchased by the Medici family and became the residence of the grand-dukes of Tuscany and later of the King of Italy. It is now a treasure-house of paintings and luxurious possessions. Many of the art pieces feature the technique known as trompe l’oeil (optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions) and were seriously astounding. After touring the palace and jaw-dropping royal apartments we finished the day with tasty gnocchi at a quaint little restaurant with a very sweet waiter.


| covered market and our giant cheesy surprise |


| wandering around town |


| magnificent panoramic view from the Piazzale Michalangelo – a famous square at the top of a large hill |


| views from and around the Piazzale Michalangelo |


| more beautiful scenes from the overlook |


| the hidden walled walkway we stumbled upon |


| strolling the ancient streets |


| the grand Palazzo Pitti, view from the palace windows, room after room after room of opulence, one of the trompe l’oeil pieces |


| inside the palace’s royal apartments |


| more elegance from inside the palace |


| walking to dinner - Ponte Vecchio in the distance |


| can’t go wrong with gnocchi |

Day 4: We visited the Medici chapel, church of San Lorenzo, and our favorite gelato shop (the Gelateria de’ Medici – conveniently located just down the street from our airbnb rental). I tried out their kiwi and pineapple while Mom went more decadent with coffee and chocolate. We made our way toward the Arno River, across, the Ponte Vecchio, and back to the Palazzo Pitti. This time we explored The Boboli Gardens just behind the palace. The gardens were vast, with many trails and fountains, and, of course, gorgeous views of Florence. A bit rushed for time, we grabbed food to go, collected our luggage, and ate in the train station like typical tourists before hopping an overnight train to Paris. Much to our surprise, it turned out I’d somehow booked us a sleeper car! It was nice to actually catch some z’s but also a little odd since you are a 1 of 6 strangers in a tiny train car with 3 squeaky bunks stacked on each side. Besides Mom and me there was a grumpy man who smelled like sour milk, an elderly lady who was sweet but chatty, her husband who snored, and a young silent barefoot guy who just stared. So that was an experience to say the least…


| skeleton of Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, ceiling in the Medici Chapel, Tomb of Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici with Dusk and Dawn, a bony crypt relic |


| Ponte Vecchio |


| at the Boboli Gardens |


| the many walkways through the gardens |


| more of the Boboli Gardens |


 | at the end of the garden is the Grotto of Buontalenti built in 1583-93, here you can also see a chubby Bacchus riding a sea turtle |


| dusk in Firenze |


| shimmery sunset at the Piazza della Signoria |


| good night basilica, good night bell tower |


| farewell Florence, we’ve got a sleeper train to catch |

Up next… Paris!

✈ Europe | Florence | Part I

Miss our first two stops? Visit the links to catch up on our grand European adventure in Rome and Pompeii.

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I fell absolutely head-over-heels in love with Florence, thus the need to split this recap into two parts. Florence is so impressive with its absurd amount of art, history, and beauty. I pretty much wandered around in a state of constant amazement. Well, I’d actually say this is true for our entire Eurotrip, but maybe just a bit more so in Firenze…

Day 1: We left Rome in the very early morning to hop a train to Florence. We arrived around 11 am, dropped our bags at our airbnb room, and went exploring. We visited the covered market, many lovely piazzas, and, of course, the always stunning basilicas. The street art / graffiti found in Florence was my favorite of the entire trip. And the food! Gelato, pizza, tiramisu …”Eataly”, you spoiled us for sure.


| on the train from Rome to Florence |


| view from our Airbnb room, pizza, and gelato from the best place in Florence |


The Duomo or Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore with its red and green design & intricate statues and carvings |


| the golden bronze doors of The Baptistery – one of Florence’s important religious buildings, dedicated to John the Baptist |


| The Duomo, outside the Uffizi Gallery, the entrance to the Uffizi |


| inside the church of Santa Trinita – built in the 11th century by monks of the Vallombrosan order |


| inside the church of San Firenze |


| street art + graffiti |

Day 2: Woke up to thunderstorms but braved the rain to make it to our morning appointment at The Uffizi Gallery. Along our walk we had the pleasure of enjoying the empty piazzas that had been teaming with people the day before. The Uffizi did not disappoint! We breathed in Botticelli and much more then stood in line at the Accademia Gallery to say hello to Michelangelo’s “David”. We lunched like locals – inhaling risotto with asparagus, gorgonzola gnocchi with walnuts, roasted veal, green beans, and a variety of gelato (pineapple, watermelon, pistachio, and chocolate orange).


Piazza della Signoria featuring the Fountain of Neptune, a rainy selfie, Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, outside the Uffizi |


| inside the Uffizi Gallery and Botticelli’s Primavera |


| as seen from a window in the Uffizi |


| David |


chalk models of famous 19th century sculptors like Lorenzo Bartolini and Luigi Pampaloni |


| lunch – gorgonzola gnocchi – my new favorite dish |

Up Next… our last two days in Florence

✈ Europe | Pompeii

Miss our first stop? Click here to catch up the beginning of our grand European adventure.

During our stay in Rome we decided to do a day trip down to Pompeii. My mom has been dying to go since she was a little girl so I’m glad we were able to make it happen!

We woke up in the dark, early morning to catch the train, dodging sleeping homeless people as we went. Arriving at Termini, the main railway station for Rome, we eventually located the street for the tourism office and stopped to chat with another couple to going to Pompeii…. until their guide showed up and told us we were actually at the wrong tour company! Eeek! Thankfully the correct meeting place was just a few blocks down so we were able to hustle and still catch the shuttle on time. From the bus windows we took in the scenery and grabbed a quick cat nap before arriving in Pompeii almost 3 hours later.

We paid our admission and set off to explore the city. We elected not to hire a private guide and were still able to see all the highlights: the Forum (with artifacts and plaster body casts of the poor casualties), the Baths, the brothel, large and small amphitheaters, the House of the Fawn, the Villa of the Mysteries, snack bars, many houses, and, of course, Mount Vesuvius looming over it all.


| Mount Vesuvius – the active portion is the high peak on the left side covered in clouds |

Vesuvius is a very much an active volcano. The mountain’s last eruption was in 1944 and it has erupted over three dozen times since the devastating explosion in 79 A.D. It’s definitely a ticking time bomb (which you can read more about here and here).

Luckily, we didn’t experience any explosions the day we visited. In fact, we had gorgeous weather; the clouds and sun took turns keeping us company with a few light rain showers to cool us off as we raced around the ruins.


| walking among the stone walls, pots that survived, remains of several houses still standing |


| columns and arches |pompeiibighouse

| restored courtyard garden at the House of Menander and colorfully painted walls |


| kitchen kilns, a flowery surprise, The Temple of Isis, Tomb of the Istacidii |


| narrow road leading off the main street, doorway after doorway, ancient steps worn from years of use |

pompeiicasualties|eerie plaster casts of the unfortunate souls who perished |

villafrescoes| well-preserved frescoes inside the Villa of the Mysteries |


| outside the brothel, roughly carved stone bed, ancient erotic paintings |


| the Basilica of Pompeii, the Forum, the Lefthand Arcade |

It was incredible to see everything and to imagine what it must have been like to live there: bustling streets, a slight breeze from the bay, sprawling houses and buildings with immense columns and bright frescoes, and mountains and hills in almost every direction.

If you ever get the chance to visit, please do! It was definitely a great addition to our trip.

Up next… Florence!

✈ Europe | Rome

For those who don’t know, my mama retired this year after 28 years of teaching. To celebrate, she asked me to come along as her travel buddy on an epic European adventure. For the entire month of September we traipsed around Rome, Pompeii, Florence, Paris, London, and Oxford! I cannot even being to express how grateful I am to her for the experience. It was a complete whirlwind, I mean, 3 counties in 3.5 weeks?! But, we made it happen, had an absolutely amazing time, and I’m excited to share it all with you guys. So without further ado…

Day 1: We flew overnight from Minneapolis to Rome, with a short layover in Boston. We arrived in sunny Rome, took a train to the neighborhood where we were staying, and proceeded to get lost and wander around for the next 3 hours in the heat + humidity with our luggage. Turns out the first step in the directions we had were the exact opposite of what they should have been. So we walked up and down the street, took many wrong turns, and went into an apartment complex and got locked inside the courtyard. Mom rang all the door bells but no one would help us or let us use their phone. Thankfully a young woman finally set us free and pointed us in the right direction. Sweaty, we eventually arrived at our Airbnb apartment and met our hosts and their kitty Mimine. After showering and settling in we ended the day on a good note with dinner at a local restaurant. Pizza, stuck pig, and roasted potatoes!

rome15 | tasty La Tavernaccia, corner fountains, pizzapizza, napping kitcat, the joys of public transit |

Day 2: We hopped a tram to the city center and stopped by the Vittorio Emanuele II monument. Although it was built in honor of the first king of Italy, it’s controversial because its placement destroyed a medieval area and interrupted the continuity and aesthetic of the Forum sites. The monument is often called “the wedding cake” or “the type writer” by its haters. I get why locals would be upset, but it’s free to visit, has a lovely café on the roof , and sweeping views of the surrounding area. After filling up our water bottles at the free fountain, we walked and walked and walked. We passed through beautiful piazzas, ducked into quiet and ornate churches, ate gelato, took in ancient views and marveled at the (Colosseum, Forum, Circus Maximus, and more), dined at a sidewalk cafe, saw the Trevi Fountain (under construction), Spanish Steps, and Pantheon, and braved both the metro and the train back to our Airbnb abode.


| sightseeing – Vittorio Emanuele II monument and the Forum |


| Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli – complete with stained glass bees and a chandelier surrounded alter |

| street views |

| The Circus Maximus, Temple of Hercules Victor, and side-street surprise |


| along the Tiber River and a parade of vespas |


 | Fontana del Moro and Piazza Navona |


| The Pantheon |


 | The Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola with its breathtaking baroque ceilings and frescoes by Andrea Pozzo |


 | views from atop the Spanish Steps and the strange exterior of Palazzo Zuccari near via Gregoriana |

Day 3: We took a break from Rome and did a day trip to Pompeii.

Day 4: We walked the Appian Way and took a tour of the Catacombs of St.Callixtus. They originated about the middle of the second century and are the burial-place of tens of martyrs, 16 popes, and very many Christians. During this time period Christians were being persecuted so they often held their religious services in secret underground in the catacombs. Just down the road from St.Callixtus is the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, which had some very neat artifacts on display, including coins, statues, and preserved tracks left by ancient wagon wheels. After exploring the Appian Way, we headed back into town to see the massive Baths of Caracalla and their amazing tile-work. We were also able to pop into incredible Colosseum and hike around Palentine Hill. And as a bonus – most of the sites we saw that day were free because it was the first Sunday of the month!


| Appian Way, Circus Maxence, ancient wheel ruts, Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella |


| Baths of Caracalla |


| exploring Palentine Hill |


| The Colosseum |


| the Arch of Constantine and a delicious panini for dinner |

Day 5: For our final day in Rome, we slept in and then hit the streets in a leisurely fashion. We inhaled delicious potato rosemary pizza and grabbed gelato at Hedera, a father-son operation that uses 60-year-old recipes. They offer 6 cream-based and 6 fruit-based ice creams and the flavors change every day depending on which fruits are in season and what’s available at the market that morning. We strolled along the river, waved at the Castel Sant’Angelo, were given completely wrong directions by a police officer (!), walked through as many medieval streets as we could, and visited the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square. Our last stop of the day was the basilica of Santa Maria in the Trastevere neighborhood. It was golden and gorgeous with details that would knock your socks off (like the faded mosaics dating back to the 12th or 13th centuries). The basilica is one of the oldest in Rome, dating from the 4th century AD, and has many marvelous frescoes to feast your eyes upon.


| the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square |


| along the Tiber |


| gelato at Hedera |


| Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere |


| inside the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere |


| the golden and glowing Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere |

Up next… Pompeii!


Recovering… from a very fun weekend at a friend’s wedding. We all met in kindergarten (except for Mr.C who didn’t join the gang until high school), played crazy games on the playground, marched in band together, danced in a circle at homecoming, chilled at the lunch table, you name it – we probably did it. So, it was fun to be able to reminisce and celebrate! Congratulations, F+R – thanks for inviting us to be a part of your special day.


fel2 fel3 fel4

Loving… getting closer to having our student loans paid off! Only $12,992.00 to go.

Looking… forward to enjoying the rest of fall, upcoming holidays, and visiting with family.

Thinking… about the big news that was revealed at work today. Some of you know the company I work at has two sides – the recruiting business (where I work) and the online magazine. We all work in the same office and everyone’s pretty close ; many have been there for 8 years. Anyway, today we learned that the online magazine side has been sold to one of the professional organizations in our industry niche. It’s surprising news but also a logical next move. I’m going to miss seeing with the coworkers who are effected by this everyday but thankfully everyone lives in Minnesota so we’ll be able to still hangout. This acquisition calls for some big changes in the next 6+ months, and as uncertain and bittersweet it all is, I’m excited to see what’s next for our company.

Watching… the final seasons of Boardwalk Empire and Parenthood

Reading… The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Listening… “Nicotine” by Panic! at the Disco, “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon, “Lost Stars (Into the Night Mix)” by Adam Levine

Eating… Trader Joe’s Gnocchi al Gorgonzola – it’s almost like I’m back in Italy.

Speaking of which, I have finally finished editing the millions of photos I took – so recaps of my epic European adventure will be up soon! :)

Anyway, that’s me…what’s current with you guys?

weekend review

This weekend Mr.C & I…

ran last minute errands before my big trip, watched West Wing & The League on Netflix, had a tasty steak dinner, kayaked on Lake Minnetonka, and played mini golf, laser tag, & Rock Band to celebrate Jessica’s birthday.


We also hit up the State Fair and attended the Paramore/Fall Out Boy concert which was a blast! We saw Fall Out Boy perform seven years ago and with our wedding anniversary coming up here on the 17th we thought it’d be a fun, romantic night out. Plus FOB is my favorite band! :)