Rome. Viareggio. Cinque Terre. Milan.
If it was possible to pick a favorite, Tom says his would have been Rome. Thanks to our ultra early ride Tuesday morning, we still had plenty of day left for exploring after settling into our lovely air b&b at Katherine and her husband’s home. With a solid start at the Colosseum, we proceeded to see the Forum, Capotoline Hill, the Pantheon, Campo de’ Friori, and the scattered ruins taking up space between many of busy roads of central Rome. We then took full advantage of the dinner deals we found to be an extremely popular theme across Roman restaurants – with a dinner, drink, and coffee for just 8 euros its tough to top!
Wednesday we dedicated to Vatican City. The not-as-bad-as-expected 50 minute long line was well worth the wait. We were blown away by the extensive museums, which ended in the one-and-only Sistine Chapel. Another long line later, we made it inside St. Peter’s Cathedral, though the dome was unfortunately closed for climbing – a tip that would have been helpful in planning ahead had we known. We spent the evening checking out Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, and another awesome dinner deal.
Thursday we had an afternoon train to Viareggio, so we made a stop at the Trevi Fountain along the way to the station, where we enjoyed the view of construction and the best gelato tasted to date.
While waking up early gets old, we decided we much prefer morning trips. By the time we arrived in Viareggio Thursday evening it was already dark. We bought groceries, made dinner, packed lunches (sandwiches, again), and went to bed.
Again, if it were even possible to pick, Cinque Terre would be second. Friday we day-tripped to this unique coastal stretch of five Italian cities where I saw more workout apparel-clad trekkers in one day than I had my entire time in Europe. Not totally expecting the hilly, 6km hiking stretch connecting the cities, we stuck out in our ill-prepared tight pants. Thank to our Colorado mountain training, however, we still managed to kick everyone’s butts and enjoyed a near-perfect day – ending with beer, bread, and a beautiful sunset.
Viareggio turned out to be a good, inexpensive location for exploring nearby attractions. Saturday morning we took the twenty minute train ride to Pisa to see its Leaning Tower, and while I expected it to be more of a check off the list, we ended up spending a couple hours enjoying Pisa before heading back to our base. While obviously more of a summer destination, we spent a relaxing afternoon lounging Viareggio’s mostly-empty free-beach area.
Sunday we headed to our last destination, Milan. I was not a fan of Milan, but to be fair, we didn’t spend nearly enough time exploring all the many sites that attract numerous visitors. We did, however, have a hell of a time getting a hold of transportation passes, a hostel with no kitchen and no fridge, and encountered even more rude, unhelpful people than we had thus far in Italy. Having seen advertisements for the global expo hosted in Milan, which focused on food and sustainability, all trip long, we made the last minute decision to buy a cheap afternoon passes to check it out for ourselves. Having high hopes for such interesting topics, this too, turned out to be a slight disappointment, since the all-inclusive entrance fee advertised turned out to not actually include anything inside the event. We made the most of it since, after all, it was the bitter-sweet last night of our backpacking stint.
Monday we awoke at 6:00 am and began our 28 hour-long journey home. Today is, once again, Tuesday. We arrived in Fort Collins at 2:00 am mountain time today – which would have been 10am in Europe. After an eventful three weeks taking in as many sites and scoops of gelato as possible, our first (hopefully of many) Euro-trip has come to an end. I learned a lot through the entire experience, and I look forward to sharing some practical tips in an upcoming post, but for now I need a solid cardio session and lots of sleep!