Monday, June 19, 2017

Paul and Me - ITALY!

Paul and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary on June 16th!  To celebrate, we took a trip to Italy just us two, while both sets of amazing grandparents tag-teamed watching (a.k.a. spoiling them with the most fun week of their lives!) our 3 munchkins (see the next post for pics from their Grandma and Grandpa camp).  Paul and I LOVED spending such an extended period of time together with just us two, and exploring something completely new to both of us!  I cannot begin to describe how amazing this trip was - but I will try to narrow down the 2000 or so pictures we took as I aim to highlight our trip here.  *Note: it is a very long and detailed post, as it is my travel journal of sorts, so I included a lot of fun memories and details along with pictures.:)

We stayed in three cities in Italy ~
1) Rome
2) Vernazza in Cinque Terre (Means "five lands" in Italian and is 5 gorgeous coastal cities connected by mountainous hiking trails). 
3) Venice

Due to the nature of our trip with 4 flights, multiple train and bus rides, and the distance each spot we stayed in was from public transportation (two places we stayed allowed no cars and one included almost 300 steps to get up to the spot where we slept), we decided to use backpacks for our trip.  I've got to be honest, when Paul first suggested it, I thought there is NO WAY I can pack for 10 days in a backpack...and even more unbelievable was thinking how I would fit all my anti-frizz hair products, make-up, face products, lotion, shampoo, etc in the quart-size ziplock of liquids allowed on an airplane.  However, after finding tiny travel containers, borrowing a few things from friends/family, and learning the trick of rolling my clothes, I had room to spare, and even could fit my purse and airplane neck pillow easily inside my pack.  Not going to lie, I felt pretty proud of myself....:-)  And, it was really fun to travel light.

I did it!
We got to the airport early on Friday morning, and took a series of flights that got us to Rome (in Rome time - 7 hours ahead of MN) mid-day Saturday.


Rome: Day 1

The Metro took us within two blocks of our hotel, Residenza Antica Roma.

It was fancy!
Our room was very decorated!
After checking into our hotel around 1pm Rome time, we were both excited to start sightseeing!  We decided to see as many sights as we could the first day, and brought our map with us, along with our Rick Steves audio guide (free download on phone) to which we listened together at each site to learn interesting facts and history about what we were viewing.  I highly recommend this audio guide, as we got so much more out of each landmark!

Our first stop was the Trevi Fountain.  It was incredibly busy!  None-the-less, we were fascinated by its grandeur and history.  Because of its proximity to our hotel, we stopped back several times throughout our stay to view it in different lights.  It was always busy!

Piazza Colona has the Column of Marcus Aurelius which was erected in AD 193!  It contains a carved story of a battle (though some is propaganda!) and at the top is a statue of St. Paul added in the 1500's by order of the Pope.

The Piazza di Montecitorio contains the Obelisk of Montecitorio which  Emperor Augustus brought from Egypt (think of the work it would be to get this marble column in one piece from Egypt to Rome!) in 10BC!  It served as a sundial and was oriented to cast a special shadow on Augustus' birthday!  In the background is a government building.

The Pantheon was a temple "to all gods" and was dedicated around 126 AD.
The inside of the pantheon is amazing! 

It is especially spectacular due to the inside dome that is a perfect half sphere.  The architecture of the dome is an ancient marvel, as it is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.

The columns of the Pantheon are massive!

We enjoyed learning the history behind Piazza Navona, used for Roman games.  The piazza hold three amazing fountains, the center one is under the obelisk (tower) and has the fountain of the four rivers.  Fascinating history here.

Fountain of Four Rivers
We walked all over looking so many sites and architecture and history!

We stopped for a late afternoon meal at a cute restaurant where we first discovered the amazingness of Italian focaccia as well as were surprised when my "green pepper steak fillet" (which I thought would be a stuffed pepper) came out looking nothing like anticipated!  It was steak on bread, covered with a peppercorn cream sauce!  It apparently is a staple in Italy, and was delicious.  It was on every menu and was ordered at least 3x more (on purpose!) throughout the remainder of the trip.
Literally EVERYWHERE were churches ornately decorated like this.  I have no idea how many churches we visited - but you can see all their domes speckling the Roman landscape in a future picture.  Each church is breathtakingly gorgeous!

As we walked among the "current" city of Rome, we came upon an area that looked like encircled area that was limited access of old buildings/ruins.  Paul and I both were fascinated by the ruins and imagining what life was like back then.  If you notice, the ruins are a full story or two below current day Rome, as future generations of Romans built on top of old ruins.  So the "new" Rome is on top of the "old Rome".

This was my favorite ceiling of the many churches we visited on the first day because I love how the painting merged with the rest of the carvings.

As we entered the evening hours of our first day in Rome, we explored the area of Rome closer to the Colosseum, including this fancy massive monument dedicated to Vittorio Emmanuel II.

We also looked from afar at some of the old Roman Forum, which we would end up loving our tour on our third day in Rome.

These were the steps to the judicial center and Forum of Augustus of old Rome, demolished in the first or second century AD.  We couldn't help but wonder if some of our Biblical heroes were put through trials at this very spot.

Just outside of the Roman Forum is Mamertine Prison, where the Apostles Paul and Peter spent time and where Paul wrote some of his letters.  My Paul posed here...we were both beyond fascinated thinking about where we were and who had walked here.

As the sun set, we continued checking sites off our list, visiting the Spanish Steps which was one we really wanted to see.

Here is the view from the top of the Spanish Steps.

Around 10pm we were both hungry and decided to have dinner!  One of my favorite foods is shrimp - I love it as cocktail, in pasta, or grilled.  I often get it on vacation because I don't cook it at home - I am the only one in our family who likes it!  However, I quickly learned that Italian shrimp are NOT like U.S. shrimp!  They are massive (like 9 inches long!) and come out on your plate with eyeballs, pincers (who knew shrimp had pincers?!?), and every detail of their bodies still in tact - EEEEEK! I was, um, scared of my dinner!  It took my like 5 minutes to get the nerve up to touching it, let alone trying to figure out how to get the meat out!!!!  Needless to say, I did NOT order shrimp again on this trip!

 Rome: Day 2

 We woke up bright and early on day 2 at 6am, ready to walk to our first tour at the Borghese Museum, an art gallery housed in a villa that Cardinal Scipione Borghese, (the nephew of Pope Paul V - reign 1605–1621) used come to relax just outside the city wall of Rome.  It is surrounded by the Borghese gardens which is a massive park area just outside Rome.  We saw many Italian joggers, walkers, etc as it is a beautiful place to come be in nature, despite living in the city. Anyway, when we left our hotel around 6:30, we quickly learned that Italians don't rise early, and they don't do much for breakfast!  After walking around for 45 minutes looking for anywhere we could grab a bite to eat, we finally headed to our two hour tour on empty stomachs!  Good thing the tour was absolutely fascinating, as I didn't even think again of being hungry until the tour ended!

Borghese Villa/Museum
The Borghese museum was so interesting - the Cardinal collected art from different time periods and grouped them in rooms according to similar subject matters so that the beholder could compare and contrast them.  For example, one room had paintings and sculptures of David and Goliath, but portrayed in different way and done in different time periods.  Our tour guide was outstanding and taught us so much and truly kept our attention the entire two hours!

Inside the Villa (i.e. mansion!) The ceilings were fancy...(it was so interesting learning the history and meaning behind the paintings)

The floors were fancy... (this was a mosaic done of famous "athletes" of the time and she described how we could learn things about each by analyzing the mosaic)

This was a sculpture done of Napoleon's wife and it was so interesting learning the story behind the rumors of her posing for this and how the proportions were set similar to a standard of beauty you could compare/contrast with other paintings and sculptures placed in the same room.

The tour guide commented on how hard it was to make hard marble appear soft, and how his talent was evident in how the cushion of the bed and the clothing, and even her back, had a softness contrasting the hardness of the marble.

Both Paul and I loved this sculpture done of David by the younger Bernini (who learned from his father Bernini) when he was early 20's! Bernini used his own face for the model, and the demonstration of action, muscle flexing, and facial expression was unique during the time Bernini sculpted.

The statue told a story...and included Saul's armor in a pile below him and a sling shot in action.

This sculpture was also fascinating and was, again, a story within a sculpture.  It portrayed the mythological story of Daphne and Apollos, shot separately by Eros (cupid), Apollos to love Daphne and Daphne to never love him back.  While being chased by Apollos, Daphne requests help from Peneus, who turns her into a tree.  The sculpture from one side shoes the actions of Apollos chasing Daphne...

From the back side of the sculpture you can see Daphne turning into a tree - her fingers into leaves and her legs into bark.  The whole sculpture is incredible when viewed from the standpoint that it was carved out of one piece of hard marble, yet demonstrates wispy cloaks flowing in the wind, textures of people and trees, and a full story within its one piece.  This too was carved by a young Bernini.

The rooms in the villa not only held interesting paintings and sculptures, but the building was so ornate!

This sculpture, telling yet another mythological story, was interesting due to how, despite being made out of marble, Bernini made the face of the man appear to stretch a the woman pushes off....

And the man's grip on the woman's thigh truly makes the marble appear soft!
This sculpture was especially fascinating as it showed a boy, a dad, and a grandpa and the way Bernini was able to show age differences in their physical appearances out of hard marble.

Our tour guide told us so much history behind each sculpture and painting.  This particular one was of people carrying Jesus' body after his crucifixion, and she explained how only one man appears aloof and stand-off-ish and how his face is one of the painters son who had already died.  Just so interesting to hear the history behind the painting.
After the tour, we saw our first (of many!) pizza/panini carts and had our first (of many!) lunches of this sort!  Delicious!

We enjoyed walking around the beautiful gardens that surrounded the Villa.

In Rome, due to the many aqueducts  (fascinating history lesson!) there were fountains everywhere with constant streams of fresh water.  This was how everyone filled up their water bottles!  And we filled up MANY this way, as it was mid 80's the whole time we were in Rome and VERY humid!
When we left the Borghese Gardens we went back through the city wall into Rome.
Pretty overlook!

In the afternoon we had a tour of Castel Sant'Angelo - which was really fun!

We got to see the "secret" passageway between the castle and the Vatican which the Pope could use to come to safety during war.

This was on top of the "secret passageway"

You can see St. Peter's Basilica in the background

Here is the treasure room in the castle

The top of the castle offered a great view of much of Rome from the Colosseum and Roman Forum (to our left if the picture was panoramic) and the Vatican/St. Peter's Basilica behind us.

Inside the castle we got to see where prisoners were kept, as well as lots of interesting facts.  One interesting feature was the short doors!

From just outside the castle you could see a beautiful view of the Vatican, which we would tour the next day.

Well, when our castle tour finished we were both hungry, seeing as we had been walking all day, and only eaten one small panini!  The heat, humidity, and constant sightseeing made us both forget about food!  We enjoyed our dinner at this cute side street restaurant.

As evening set in, we checked many more items off our map's sightseeing to-do list, enjoying the ambiance of evening in Rome.  We crossed the river to see "the other side" of town (Trastevere), as well as made our way down to see our first up close view of the Colosseum!

It was breathtaking!

Honestly, I couldn't believe we were standing RIGHT THERE in front of the Colosseum!

 We walked all over to see the Arch of Constantine and the Circus Maximus.

Then we got our first (of many!) gelatos!  Mmm! This became an evening routine for us!

Rome: Day 3

Our third day in Rome was one of my favorites.  We had an early morning tour of the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica and then a quick 1 hour to get to the other side of Rome for our tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

We arrived early at the Vatican City to catch the morning quiet before the crowds poured in.

We learned that the Vatican was built with St. Peter's basilica as the "head" and the two areas left and right of the picture as the "arms", representing the church opening its arms to the city of Rome and beckoning it to come to Christ.
We had an "art and faith" tour of the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica.  I was so glad that Paul pre-purchased tickets, as the line was sooo long!  I don't know that I have ever been in any area as crowded as the Vatican Museum - it was literally wall to wall people throughout the entire museum!  I was very grateful for our tour guide who efficiently brought us to select paintings and navigated us through the crowds.  It was fun to see this tapestry of the Last Supper.

I enjoyed how our tour guide made any painting come to life.  For example, for this particular painting she described the difference between the light on the top and the dark bottom and the different people pictured and what their expressions meant.

As with much of Roman architecture, you can't forget to look up!  The ceilings are insane!

 ***At this point in the tour, we were able to enter the Sistine Chapel.  No photography is allowed, and so I have no pictures.  One of my favorite parts was all the "pre-descriptions" our tour guide gave BEFORE we entered the chapel, as no talking is allowed in the chapel.  She showed us pictures of the paintings and described the progression and meaning of the stories in the front/back, ceiling, sides, and back of the chapel.  It was so much more interesting knowing the things to look for before entering. ***

We then moved to the part of the tour of St. Peter's Basilica.  From the "porch" you could look out over Vatican City.


We got to see Michelangelo's Pieta, and learned so much about how the sculpture was meant to show both the death and life of Jesus in one sculpture.  For example, Jesus is shown with non-collapsed veins, Jesus' legs and arms have some muscle strength as they are not hanging as dead weight, etc. This was meant to demonstrate Christ's current death but coming resurrection...all in one sculpture.

A centerpiece to the basilica is St. Peter's tomb, where his body is buried under this spot, because Jesus told Peter that he was the rock on which he would build his church.

Oh ya know, just me and St Peter ;)
The (Swiss) guards of the Pope have such interesting clothing!  Purple and yellow striped uniforms and boots!

We literally ran to catch the metro to our Colosseum and Roman Forum tour on the other side of Rome, with just enough time to grab a quick foccacia panini for lunch!
It is massive!
We got to see the underground part (below stage) and learned how they would channel natural spring water under it to eliminate the animal smell.  We saw where the trap doors in the stage were to lift up the things that would be on display.

We got to go below the stage to see the type of pulley system used to lift large animals from their cages below to the stage above.

We walked each level of seating and learned which types of people would sit there.

We walked from the Colosseum to Palatine Hill, as our tour guide gave us a history lesson.  I found these olive trees interesting, since olive groves are mentioned in the Bible and I had never seen an olive tree!
We saw remnants of many things, but this one was very interesting.  It was an old heated floor!  They would heat water with fireplaces below the floor and then run the hot steam through the floor to heat it!
The Arch of Titus, just southeast of the Roman Forum, was especially interesting as it had carvings showing the siege of Jerusalem in AD70 and carrying off articles from Solomon's temple.

We then entered the Roman Forum, which is a massive collection of Roman ruins of the ancient city of Rome.  Our tour guide showed us pictures of what they believe it looked like (based on history, backgrounds found in old paintings, etc) and then pointed out what different buildings were used for.

It was absolutely amazing to walk among these ruins, along the "main street" of Rome, as it would have been when the apostle Paul walked the earth!  This was one of my favorite places all trip.

Paul pretending to roll a giant fallen column.

Thinking about how someone actually chiseled this out around year 0...and we can touch it!

Amazing!  These things are still standing after 2000+ years!

Can't you just picture life, shops, etc during the time of the New Testament? Rome was such a center of the world during that period.

After our Roman Forum tour, we just sat and relaxed and talked about all that we had seen!  We had seen all the spots we hoped to see and kept up quite a busy pace!

And it was amazing to do it together just us two!

Traveling from Rome to Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre: Day 1

We got up super early to catch the Metro to the main train hub.

Once there, we caught our train to the Cinque Terre area,

We caught our final train to Vernazza, the 4th of the five coastal cities that makeup Cinque Terre ("five lands"), and after getting off the train it was love at first sight!

Gorgeous city with multicolored buildings and fun atmosphere!  There are no cars allowed in these cities, except for delivery trucks in the morning, so it is all walking/hiking.

After walking through the city from the train station, we started our climb to get to the room we would be staying in for the next 3 nights.  This was the beginning of almost 300 stairs (not including ramps and walkways!) to get to our room!!!  THIS was why we decided to do backpacks instead of suitcases ;)

The view part way up to our little cottage

We made it!  The house was small....

Haha this was the whole thing with a tiny little bathroom in the back...

But the view from our house was spectacular!!!!!!!!!!
This is how they would get food to the restaurant just below the house we stayed in.

Big job!

After arriving, our first stop was lunch.  Just as in Rome, Cinque Terre had foccacia pizza/panini shops all over town!

This map shows the 5 cities that make up Cinque Terre.  We stayed in Vernazza.  On Day 1 we hiked to Monterosso, one of the cities next to us.
After lunch and a quick dip in the Mediterranean Sea to cool off (it was mid 80's sunny and very humid!), we set out on our first hike to Monterosso.

Vernazza, "our city" in the background.

To get from one city to the next, the hiking looked like this - lots of steps!  It was definitely hard work in the hot weather, and we needed lots of water, but the views were so rewarding!  And, I like to hike ;).

Keeping cool!

Vineyards everywhere!

Looking back to Vernazza

After a while we could start to see Monterosso!

Monterosso is the city with the nicest beach, and is also the most touristy of the 5 cities.

Cool architecture in Monterosso

Monterosso is the only one of the 5 cities that allows cars, but they are small!  Look at the size of this pickup!

See the man (top left) carved out of the cliff, holding up the rocks? :)

After exploring the city, churches, and more at Monterosso, we relaxed by the beach for a while.  Then we took the train back to Vernazza to get cleaned up for a nice dinner.  We were sweaty!

We ate at the restaurant just below our place, and the view of the sunset was amazing!

I have to include a memory here - almost every meal we had included some interesting waiter story!  We have a bunch of them.  But this particular one was funny because he gave our food to the table one over from us.  They spoke only French and we spoke only English, but between facial expressions and gestures we communicated and laughed together.  Without the waiter knowing, they handed us the correct food.  The highlight was the waiters face when he saw us eating the food he had set down in front of the neighboring table - he was so confused!! It was priceless!


Lights coming on...
After dinner, we relaxed on our deck and watch the stars and listened to the waves.  Perfection.

Cinque Terre: Day 2

The view was just as gorgeous the next morning!

We slept in a bit, as it was our first morning yet that we didn't have transportation or a tour to catch.  Even with sleeping in, we noticed that places weren't open for breakfast!  So we started our Cinque Terre tradition of visiting the local grocery store and grabbing some fruit, nuts, and yogurt to start our day.  It was so fun to be in an Italian store!

We then set off on a beautiful hike to Corniglia, the city on the other side of where we were staying.

Literally GORGEOUS views around every curve.  Here is when we spotted Corniglia.
Cute town!

Lunch in Corniglia

While we had hoped to hike Corniglia to Manarola after lunch, the coastal trail was closed due to rockslides.  So, we decided to hike up the the top...and then down to Manarola.  It seemed like a great idea...but 5 hours later...we were in the midst of an adventure!

Although the hike to the top of the mountain was strenuous in the heat and humidity, the hike along the top was easy and flat and shaded!

We were VERY high!

We caught sight of the city we were hiking to....

But as we started to hike the trail down, that trail was closed!

We ended up hiking a very long round about trail and realized that we were VERY VERY high!  See the bridge in the middle of the picture and the city waaaay off in the far right of the picture - that is where we needed to get to!  Seeing the trail closed sign made both of our hearts sink, as it was getting close to dinner! 
After hiking the second trail for a while, it came to a private vineyard with a gate...and we weren't sure if we could go in!  We hadn't seen a trail marker sign for a while....but decided to stay on the path to see what happened.  This vineyard was literally on top of the world, and while hiking we were both wondering if we would need to do a very large backtrack...but...we came out the other side to a trail marker!  And we both grew very excited that we would indeed make it to Manarola ;).

It was a steep climb down to Manarola!
There are gorgeous vineyards in a semicircle completely encircling the city and going high up the sides of the mountain face.


But we decided we would explore it more the next day as we were soooo dirty!  We took the train back to our place in Vernazza to shower up before dinner!
After cleaning up, we decided to train to Riomaggiore, for the sunset and dinner, as we didn't know how the train strike predicted for the next day would affect us getting to or from this farthest city from us.

This was our dinner spot in Riomaggiore.

Cinque Terre: Day 3

After visiting all 5 cities, we chose to go back to one of our favorites for our last day.  We took the train to Manarola (where we ended our 5 hour hike the day before) for breakfast and to explore the city.  It is gorgeous and I just loved the vineyards surrounding the city.

Breakfast in Manarola


See how the terraced vineyards envelop the city!  So pretty!

We decided to hike the "mid mountain" trail back to Corniglia, with a stop in an mid-upper mountain city (Volastra) as the day prior we had traveled the distance between the cities via the top of the mountain.  The paths went literally right through the vineyards!

Some parts of the path had really big drop offs...and there were a few times we both decided not to look down too much!
The views were amazing!

At this point in the trail you could see both cities...Corniglia to which we were hiking (under the "C" I am making with my hand)...

...and Manarola from which we were hiking under the "M" I am making with my hand.

This trail was just a really fun one through the woods at times and opening up to gorgeous views.

When we got to Corniglia, we had my personal favorite of all the foccacia lunches we had.  It was a veggie/chicken quesadilla made with foccacia and soooo good!

It was really hot, so we decided to train back to Vernazza instead of hike back.

In Vernazza, we explored the castle we could see from our little house.

Then we went swimming to cool off!

We cleaned up for a beautiful last dinner in Cinque Terre, right on the water.  I had my favorite meal all trip, ravioli with shrimp scampi sauce.  (And yes, even thought I thought I was safe when it said "shrimp sauce", it DID come with giant shrimp with eyeballs set atop the ravioli, but I was much braver quickly getting the meat out and then putting those silly eyeballs out of sight to enjoy my ravioli ;) )
 We enjoyed leisurely walking around Vernazza for our last evening and exploring more back streets of our town.
Pictured in the back center is the castle we explored earlier.

Traveling from Cinque Terre to Venice

Venice: Day 1

We woke up very early on our anniversary (June 16th), excited to head to Venice, but a bit apprehensive, as we had three consecutive trains to get us to Venice and quite a few trains were going on strike this day!

We headed to the train station, hoping our train would show up!
Here we are at the train station in Milan

The train station itself was an architectural sight!

All our trains rides went smoothly!

And we started getting really excited as we started to see Venice!

When we walked out of the train station, we were both in shock - WE ARE IN VENICE!

Our very first sight of the Grand Canal did NOT disappoint!
As we began our walk to our hotel, I seriously wanted to take a picture around every corner!

After 45 hot and humid minutes of trying to find our hotel, we finally found it!

whew!  Here it is!  GPS had pegged it at a different dead end spot!

Our room was ornately gaudily amazing!
After getting cleaned up, we headed out for an afternoon/evening of sightseeing in Venice!
Our main bucket list item in Venice was a Gondola ride!

We promptly fulfilled that goal with Fabio :)

It was everything I dreamed it would be!
Spending our anniversary evening on a Gondala in Venice, Italy...say what?!?!?  Even as we got off we could hardly believe what we had just gotten to do!

After sightseeing a bit more, we found this cute restaurant to eat at for our anniversary meal.

Here is the outside of where we ate...isn't it amazing!?
They even happened to have daisies (our wedding flower!) at the table!

We ordered Italian style, with several courses.  Paul started with Pesto Spaghetti.

I started with a delicious salad (sooo good when they put fresh corn on top!)

Then Paul picked steak.

And I had a ricotta and spinach cannelloni

Paul enjoyed getting his tiny coffee at the end of the meal!

My handsome date!

Happy 10 year anniversary to us!

We finished the night with 3 scoops of gelato a piece, and more exploring Venice!

 Venice: Day 2

We had one full day in Venice, and we made it count, starting with a four hour tour of the main spots in Venice!  Our tour guide was fantastic!  A mom of two who had grown up her entire life in Venice, she gave us tons of history and a fascinating narrative about what we saw, mixed with a real perspective of what it is like to live in Venice.  It was four hours well spent!

We walked all over looking at landmarks, learning how the water system used to work, hearing about the fires and how they now treat them, learning about the hospital, Marco Polo's history, and so much more!

Then we headed to St. Mark's Square which was pretty amazing.

This clock tower rang on the hour and the figures hit the bell.

St. Mark's Basilica was actually one of my favorite church's to see in Rome as the ceiling of the church was ALL mosaic!!! It took eight-hundred years to finish the ceiling - like 20 generations!  And every ornate picture is made up of tiny mosaics!  It was fun to see the progression of art from "flat" portraits of the 12 apostles at the beginning of the 800 year work to the final ones being more 3D scenes.

Attached to the basilica was an amazing palace of the Doge (Venetian ruler) and we learned so much fascinating history!

This was a complaint box!

Our tour guide told us that if you saw someone do something they shouldn't, you, along with two witnesses, would write the infraction on a piece of paper and slide it in here, where it would be dealt with!

The Doge's Palace was beyond amazing.  Over the Doge's throne is either the largest or second largest oil painting in the world - "Paradise" by Tintoretto 22 meters by 7 meters.  It was interesting that the artist included himself in the bottom left of the painting :)
The Doge had his palace built with these 3D looking tiles on the Golden Staircase, with contained 130 steps that any dignitaries had to walk up to come visit him!  Each room they were ushered into outdid the previous with ornate architecture, pure gold, and paintings! 

We got to see the secret door in the courtroom that led to the torture chamber!  We also saw the prison.
And we learned about the humility of the Doge - always bowing in all paintings.  Doge's were elected for life, but only when they were old, so that they would not have too much power.  In fact one Doge even died sitting in one of the meeting rooms!  Doge's moved into the apartment when they were ruling, but brought all their own furniture.  When the Doge died, the wife had only 3 days to move out all her things!  This tour was so interesting and so was our tour guide!

We stopped (by recommendation of our local tour guide) at the Rosso Pomodoro (red tomato) pizzeria for our last lunch.

Mmmmm!  It did NOT disappoint!  I miss these lunches!

 We spent the afternoon ducking in and out of ornate churches, listening to local musicians, and generally exploring!  Then we took our time finding the perfect "last night of vacation" restaurant for dinner, right on the Grand Canal.

view from restaurant

view from restaurant

After dinner, we walked some more...

I loved walking this stretch along the water!
Then we headed back to St. Mark's square - beautiful to see it at night.

We got our last gelato and listened to the many live bands - sooo good!
We took in the last light of Venice...
And said goodbye to our last night in Venice.


We left super early for our 19+ hour travel day...

Walking, bus, and 2 flights later, we arrived back in MN.

Eric picked us up at the airport, where we gathered with my family for a Father's Day celebration dinner!
 It was so much fun to see the kids again, and they had a BLAST with both sets of grandparents (Tommerdahls for the first half of the week, and Kirkwoods for the second half) along with seeing all the aunts and uncles!  More on that in the next post! 


The Baum Family said...

Wow!!!! Looks gorgeous and so absolutely amazing! I can't wait to hear about it in person! ❤️

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