Two Unbelievable Weeks in EuropeAuthor: Kathryn B.
Date of Trip: July 2006
Day 11 - Venice to Florence
I have to say I wasn't all that disappointed to leave Venice. I had a nice time and it's great that I can say I saw the city, but it wasn't one of my favorites. Plus I heard wonderful things about Florence and couldn't wait to see it. The scenery on the way was again gorgeous. Coach travel really lets you see the country side that you never would if just flying from city to city. It's funny how there are random castles or postcard views, that aren't tourist attractions, just part of life.
Sorry, got sidetracked there. It was a long drive to Florence, but we ending up making a surprise stop in Pisa, home to the Leaning Tower! Pisa is such a tourist town, and if not for the Leaning Tower, wouldn't exactly be impressive. But, the Leaning Tower is a lot of fun to see and take cheesy tourist pictures with. We also had a crappy souvenir contest for under two euro outside the Leaning Tower, and it's amazing how much crap they try to sell to tourists. But hey, it's fun, and we fall for it.
Few more hours of coach travel and we arrived in Florence. Our hotel was right in the middle of the city, so we could walk everywhere and explore. Florence is so pretty and probably became my second favorite city. Had dinner on our own then met back as a group to go to the Red Garter bar. Drinks, karaoke, lots of Australians, dancing, and lots of fun.
Day 12 - A beautiful day in Florence
Started the day off with a guided sightseeing tour of the city. It was a good orientation of the city. Then off to go exploring some more. The main goal of the day was to see Michelangelo's "David" at the Academia, so after a failed attempt to jump the queue, we waited in the long line and ate gelato. The line only took an hour or so, then we went in and saw David. Very cool. Took some sneaky pictures.
Wandered around the rest of the museum, but the rest was nothing compared to David. More walking and enjoying the city. Had to get back a little earlier to get ready for our best meal of the trip. Once we were all dressed up, we took our group picture at the top of Florence, then went to the restaurant. The food was amazing. The best Italian food hands-down I have ever had. I ate way more than I thought could fit in my stomach, then got seconds. During dinner we were treated to an opera singer as well, and she sang beautifully. I'd say this was favorite moment #3, because everything about it was just so authentically Italian and great. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was because the trip was soon coming to an end, but I shed a few tears during dessert and "Ave Maria". After dinner, it was time for some serious partying at Space Electronic, the biggest night club in Florence. At this point, I probably shouldn't have kept drinking, but did have the one free drink that comes with entrance, and did plenty of dancing.
Day 13 - Florence to San Gimignano to Rome
We left Florence and headed to Rome. Around noon we got to the town of San Gimignano, which is a one of the cutest towns I have ever seen. The views from within the medieval walls are stunning. It's so picturesque (which I say about a lot of things, but it seems like everything on this trip was) and it's surrounded by vineyards as far as you can see. I loved stopping here. It's too bad we only had an hour or so, I could have stared out at the hills of vineyards for hours. Got some Chianti though that I have yet to try from here, so hopefully it'll be a good reminder of that little town.
Then officially off to Rome, which is not all that far from Florence. Got there in the afternoon for a guided walking tour. It rained a bit, but not too bad, and we learned a lot about the Colosseum, some of the ruins, and the Wedding cake building. Pete then took us on his tour and we saw the Trevy Fountain and ate some award-winning gelato. Had dinner on our own and had some awesome pizza. Met back as a group and headed to the hotel for a relaxing night.
Day 14 - When in Rome, do as the Romans do...
Another full day to do as we wished. I decided to stay with most of the group and go see the Vatican and St. Peter's first. Long line in the hot sun, but Pete was awesome and got us Vatican pizza while we waited. After about an hour and a half we went inside the Vatican and saw the Sistine Chapel. The paintings in there are truly amazing. A few of us then snuck in with a tour group and went inside St. Peter's without waiting in the line. St. Peter's was probably the thing I was most impressed with in Rome. It's the biggest church in the world, and it is enormous and beautifully decorated everywhere. Walking through that was great. Those two things took up quite a chunk of the day, so we went and got lunch at a really nice restaurant. Very good spaghetti. I loved the food in Italy, it's all just so good. Especially the gelato, mmm.
After lunch, Racheal, Kelly, and I did more wandering around Rome and saw the Pantheon and Spanish Steps. Pantheon was very cool, Spanish Steps were disappointing, probably because of the construction. We met again at the Wedding Cake building as a group and layed around for awhile. Lots of walking as usual. We walked over by the Colosseum and had a great dinner with a wonderful view of the Colosseum outside. It was an awesome place to have our last group dinner.
Back to the hotel and we decided to have a toga party while giving out our Contiki Compadre gifts. I've never had a toga party, so Rome was a good place for one.
We had some drinks at the bar and all stayed up late talking since it was our last night. Some people had to leave at 4am and some at 8am, so lots of goodbyes were said the night before.
It's weird that I started the trip not knowing anyone, and by the time it was over, I was really sad to see everyone go. I really got close with some people and made great friends. My Contiki was so much fun, such incredible times and overall, UNBELIEVABLE, that's about the best way I can sum it up. I miss traveling with the group on the coach from place to place, hearing the day songs played over and over, being in a new place so often you almost forget where you are, desperately trying to learn a little bit of a new language so you can get by, and having awesome experiences I never thought I would have the chance to do. I can't wait to go on my next Contiki. If you get the chance to go on one, do it. You won't be sorry.
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