Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Italian Adventure Highlights (+ Paris!) // Part 2

While staying in Sorrento, we took a wild ride on the Circumvesuviana to see the ruins in Pompeii. I had been once before, but after watching numerous documentaries on the subject, it was something The Mister wanted to see while we were in Italy.  It was just as sobering an experience as it was the first time I saw it. We found ourselves smiling for pictures to take back home and show others, but the reality of the place and what befell its inhabitants nearly 2,000 years ago weighed heavy that day.  There was also wonder too- amazement of the work that still continues to take place to unearth treasures buried so very deep in hardened ashy earth, bit by little bit. 

We took another risk right outside the train station and hired a local guide to teach us all we did not know. It was one of the best investments of the trip and surprisingly inexpensive. We landed with a small group and an archeology student who was well versed in every nook and cranny of the site. We learned so very much that day, saw portions of the city that had opened only the weekend before and could not help but be awed at how beautiful the surrounding landscape was. There were also the resilient wild dogs of Pompeii to marvel and coo at. Both were reminders that Pompeii is also a survivor and not just a city in ruins.

We left the Bay of Naples and headed off by train to Tuscany for the next three days. We arrived in Siena at dusk and immediately made our way into the medieval city centre for dinner. Our first glimpse of Piazza del Campo, the main square in front of the towering town hall was another moment I'll never forget. I'd stared at pictures of it for so very long and I think I must've said I can't believe we're standing here! so many times that night. We ate at Bar Il Palio, a historic watering hole named for the famous horse race that takes place there twice each year and over a plate of Pici, giggled at the bar's soundtrack for the evening, Elvis' Greatest Hits. It was surreal being in a distant place so brand new, trying a dish we had not ever heard of while we were serenaded by a voice all too familiar. 

I could definitely live here. I think I made the announcement several times as we walked the narrow stone streets of Siena. It somehow felt more cosmopolitan than Rome or the other cities we had visited. From table to table you heard people speaking French, German and Italian, readily exchanging one language for the other depending on who they were addressing. We were made aware so many times on our trip that we are part of a global community and yet here was one more reminder. I felt ashamed that I could only order in my native language and made a promise to myself over plate of wild boar pappardelle that I would make a solid attempt to pick up another language well before my next big birthday.

Put Siena on your bucket list. It's a place well worth a visit, maybe even more than once.

It wasn't on our original itinerary, but a change of plans had us spending our last full day in Italy in the city of Florence. We needed a bit of a break before we took our next destination by storm and decided on a slow exploration of the city, picking out just a couple of spots that would give us a little taste of this historic place. After lunch, we pinpointed The Basilica of Santa Croce as our big draw and visited the tombs of Galileo, Machiavelli and Michelangelo before taking in a little street-side shopping.  

Paris is a city to be shared. My first Parisian experience over a decade ago was a solo mission and I understand now more than ever that I didn't get the same feel for that magnificent city as I did when The Mister and I landed there for the final leg of our trip. I was joyful, ecstatic even nearly every moment we were there. Perhaps it was due in part to our inaugural cocktail the night we landed. It's not everyday that you get to taste a bloody mary made from behind the bar where it was invented. The Mister can finally cross that one off his bucket list.

But the truth is, the beauty present in every single thing in this city spoke resoundingly to the romantic in me and to my surprise, my Italian Mister who might have whispered that this was his favorite leg of our journey. It was amazing to us how clean, well cared for and styled every table, monument, lobby, garden bed and street corner was - how evident it was that people actually took the time to "make pretty", everywhere.  Made us want to return home and do the same.

We had just two and a half days in The City of Lights and we made the most of every minute. I plotted out long walks that made the most efficient use of our time there and we found ourselves seeing everything we wanted to see on this trip. We walked in the rain along the river and found the best bowl of Pho I've ever had in St. Germain (I'd give anything to go back there right now and have that meal again). We walked the heart of the city at least twice over and among many things saw Napoleon's tomb, picnicked on The Seine, cruised the river after dark, locked it all up on The Pont des Artes, saw a mass take place at Notre Dame and yes, sipped champagne under the lights of the Eiffel tower. We even took a train out to Pere Lachaise Cemetery to visit Morrison's tomb. The Mister can cross that one off his list as well.

Note the lipstick stains that mark the tomb of Oscar Wilde above.
There was also Edith. I can cross that one off my own list.

Our last day greeted us with sunny skies and it was Sunday afterall, so all of Paris was found strolling the Champs-Elysees along with us. We walked from the Arc de Triomphe up the great avenue to the Place de la Concord and finally through The Tuileries before landing in front of the glass pyramid at The Louvre. It was free admission that day and the line did not end. We made a promise to come back and see it when we could spend the time and do it right. 

The best way to end a trip is with the promise of another.

If you'll indulge me, I have one more post to share with you. With so much to see, it's easy to dismiss where you stay as unimportant, but I have some thoughts and some great finds to share with you on the subject. We did a lot of reflecting on our journey and learned a lot about ourselves, as well as gained a new understanding about travel and why it is important (even if the destination is not always as grand). Of course, there are some logistical learnings that you might want to file away for your own adventures in the future. Keep a look out for that post next week.

For reference, Part 1 of our journey is chronicled here

* photos by Holtwood Hipster / R. Neally



jackie jade said...

ahh looks so amazing! I went to Italy and Paris years ago and would love to go back again, especially now that I have a much, much better camera. looks like you guys had a great time!
-- jackie @ jade and oak

jackie jade said...

ahh looks so amazing! I went to Italy and Paris years ago and would love to go back again, especially now that I have a much, much better camera. looks like you guys had a great time!
-- jackie @ jade and oak

Albertina M. Cisneros said...

I bet going back to Paris with your loved one makes a big difference. I still haven't been with my husband and I'm dying to explore it together. Lovely photos...and I agree picnics are the best way to enjoy a city!

Trissta said...

Girl! What a trip! This is AMAZING! I spent the summer traveling through Italy, and I have to say the Pompeii was my absolute favorite. I could have spent days there. I didn't spend a ton of time in Siena, but I agree that it was quite magnificent. If you go back again, I would suggest going to the coast to LaSpezia and hike the Cinqua Terra. It was by far one of the most amazing things I've ever done.

Much Love,

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