Time to get back to it! On Sunday night, I posted about the first half off the Mediterranean trip that my mom and I took together last fall. Today, we are going to keep reliving those travel tales!
After exploring Turkey, our next stop was Santorini, Greece. This might be my favorite destination, ever. The island is amazing, like it should be in a fairytale. Everything is built on top of the island which is very high above sea level and the only two ways to get up are cable cars or donkeys!
We took the car up to the top and walked around the shopping center (“port”). We had nothing booked ahead of time. I wanted to see the traditional blue and white side of Greece. We found a city bus (it’s like, a dollar… I mean, come on…) and took it to the town of Oia. The bus ride was totally worth it because we saw some true Greek attitude when our driver almost took off while some elderly woman was half in and half out. Her (assumed) daughter started yelling in Greek and waving her arms in anger like I’ve never seen before! When we got to the town, I was in love with it immediately! The buildings are such a brilliant white and matched with a beautiful blue hue. I could stay there forever. We also learned that they have to pressure wash the buildings often to keep up that appearance! My mom and I leisurely walked around, stopping for a drink or a treat along the way. It was such a relaxed, “local” type of day and I loved it! We took the bus back to the main port and of course took donkeys down. I felt too bad asking donkeys to carry us up! I did ask to just walk a donkey down so that I wouldn’t feel bad making it carry me around- but they said that wasn’t allowed and made me ride. There are so many donkeys, and I loved them (I had to stop to say hi or pet each one along the way- ha, shocker, right?).
Moving on to Athens, Greece… My mom booked a food tour with the walking tour company. This was an interesting program and I really enjoyed it! We met our guide in downtown Athens and once our small group had arrived, we were able to get started. Our guide took us through the city by foot. We focused on the food, but she also made a point to tell us some history and other tidbits along the way. We sampled food from many places- a street vendor, a bakery, a cafe, a shop, the market, and finally a restaurant. We sampled things like olives, Greek yogurt, olive oils, bread, honey, cheese, doughnuts, pitas, roasted vegetables, savory pies… seriously, I could go on forever. Our tour left us at a restaurant serving more of a “lunch”. As my mom and I left the tour, we then walked through a weekend market and did some shopping. We did not visit any of the sights- but did walk by the Acropolis.
Next up, we traveled back to Italy. Our port was Naples, but there was little to do there (in my opinion). Luckily, we had an excursion booked. We joined the group and headed to Pompeii. This was my mom’s one and only request. More rocks. It was actually interesting to be there and see Mt Vesuvius towering in the background while you learned about life in Pompeii before it was buried in ash. We followed a guide who helped to explain each area (you know, to explain what the rocks were supposed to “be”).
This inappropriate symbol in the ground points to the brothels!
Then, we drove along the Amalfi coast to get a good view. It’s so beautiful. It really is hard to explain, but that contrast of island rock cascading down into the royal blue water is gorgeous. After the scenic drive, we were let out in the town of Sorrento to explore. We had lunch (pizza and wine- yum!) outside of a cafe to do some people watching before we walked the streets (and got some gelato on the way back, this actually became almost a daily routine).
This was our last cruise stop and we traveled back to Rome
We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Rome near the train station. This was super convenient for the train, but not so much for some of the other sites. I would recommend staying closer to the center of Rome- maybe a nice plaza, with cafes and wine outside!
Our first day back at Rome was a wandering day. We walked the neighborhood we stayed in and visited a beautiful cathedral. Then, we found the previously mentioned plaza with wine! We had a cooking class scheduled for dinner which was fabulous!
Class took place at the chef’s home apartment. He lived on the top floor with a rooftop terrace. He and his wife run this program. They had appetizers and prosecco waiting for us. For dinner, we were making fresh pasta! The group was relatively small- about ten total. We each had a station and with direction, made our own pasta from scratch! Our hosts cooked it up with a homemade meat sauce (they made pesto for me!) and served up dinner in their home with lots of wine. It was the BEST PASTA EVER! And, I made it! And dessert? Stop it. So good. He made red wine poached pears with gelato and a shot of lemoncello. I would weigh a thousand pounds if I stayed there.
The next day we took the train back to Naples and then took a ferry to the island of Capri! This was the request from my list. It was so beautiful! I really wanted to see the Blue Grotto, so when we docked, we found a small boat tour around the island including the Blue Grotto. As we arrived to the grotto, the view was unreal! There was a tiny hole in the rocks of the island and several boats and canoes. Each tour boat was anchored and the small canoes came to each boat, collected 4 people and then brought them to a floating pay station where you pay to go into the grotto (this was an expensive day so be ready for that) and then take you in. When it was our turn to go into the canoe, our “captain” (?) was crazy. He had a wine cork sticking out of his ear, he was singing and drinking wine from bottles stored in the canoe that we crammed in to. I truly couldn’t make up a character that funny. He would shake us so we felt like we would fall out. There are four of us basically laying on top of each other and as we go through this small opening he pushes us all down even further so that we fit. It was insane! Inside it is dark. But, the light comes through that opening, illuminating the water so there is a beautiful glow. The “captain” (?) serenaded us inside because why not? Once back to our boat, we continued our tour around Capri seeing the Lover’s Arch and other beautiful scenery.
On our third day in Rome, we went to Vatican City. You definitely need to book a tour to do this. The line to get in was hours long. Because we were on a walking tour, we were able to then get right in. We had a guide to describe the church, history, museums, everything! I was really interested in what we were seeing and I loved being in the Sistine Chapel. Honestly, I was annoyed how crowded it was and how little time we were given there. Tourists are taking pictures while being yelled at by security. I could have just sat in that room for hours to see everything and just… be. Breath-taking. We had lunch outside of St Peter’s square and spent the afternoon wandering. That night we enjoyed our last Italian meal of pasta, bread, caprese, and wine.
Unfortunately, we had to head back to the airport to fly home the next morning. Other than a delay at our connection, all was well. This trip was so memorable and we were lucky to see as much as we did. I cannot wait to go back one day. Now, I want to explore the northern parts of Italy like Venice, Milan and Florence.