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    Rome, Italy

    Spring Break Day 7 & 8: Rome, Italy
    We left Florence and arrived in Rome by train around 5:30 on Friday. We had all of Saturday to see Rome and flew back to Ankara very early on Easter Sunday.


    Rome park


    Where we stayed
    We spent two nights at Sleeping Beauty Guesthouse. The room was large, clean, and the staff was friendly and incredibly helpful.

    By the time we made it to our hostel, I was exhausted and my feet were killing me. (Wear good shoes when you travel!!!) We got dinner, then came back to the room. David turned on the news and saw that the Pope was at the Colosseum for an Easter lighting ceremony. I stayed in, but he went to check it out. He ended up missing the Pope by about 20 minutes.


    Colosseum with moon


    Before we left for our trip, we pre-booked 8:45 am tickets to the Vatican and signed up for the breakfast inclusion, because it was the only advanced deal left. It actually worked out great. It was a typical American continental spread, and it gave us enough energy to make it through the afternoon. We walked through the many halls of the Vatican, saw the Sistine Chapel (gorgeous!), and stopped in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

    We had a rainy day for touring Rome. (The gelato did make up for it!)

    After the Vatican, we visited the Colosseum. David was especially excited because his mom had visited it and told him about it in homeschool. It’s kind of a morbid place to tour, if you think about it. So many people were murdered and martyred inside. I’ve been studying Romans this semester with my Bible study group, and it made me think about how greatly Paul longed to encourage the body in Rome.

    After the Colosseum, we searched for the Secret Vatican Keyhole. It’s nowhere near the Vatican, but gives you the most amazing, aligned view of St. Peter’s! The hole looks through The Knights of Malta gardens. We found other beautiful garden views in a nearby convent.

    Where we ate:
    At the suggestions of our hostel, we ate at Spaccio Pasta and Trattoria Pizzeria Da Simonetta. Both were walking distance from where we stayed. Neither were particularly amazing, but were cheap and tasty. Spaccio seemed more like a chain restaurant. Simonetta was a rustic, local restaurant. I had a delicious eggplant casserole dish. The owner was so proud when I told him how good it was and told me his mama made it.


    Vatican breakfast




    Vatican hall

    Vatican art


    St. Peter's Basilica


    Gelato cone


    Colosseum sign


    Colosseum rocks


    Colosseum maze


    Colosseum cross


    David and Leah in Colosseum


    David looking through keyhole


    The Knights of Malta keyhole


    David in front of old door


    Orange tree through hole


    We had a stressful time getting back home. We experienced a bit of reverse culture shock in dealing with the shuttle to the airport. Terravision leaves right when it says it does. I don’t know what we were thinking… I guess we were used to people loading around the time on the ticket, since that’s usually what happens in Turkey. We missed our shuttle, but fortunately they let us hop on the next bus an hour later. That put us at the airport just an hour before our international flight. We sprinted through the airport to check our bags and stood in the longest customs line we’d ever seen. (We should have known better since it was Easter weekend!) By the grace of God we made it through and safely back to Ankara.


    We loved our trip to Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome. It was David’s and my first Europe trip on our own! We came back to school refreshed. It was the trip of a lifetime!



    Florence, Italy

    Spring Break Day 6 & 7: Florence
    We said goodbye to Venice in the morning, hopped on a train, and pulled into Florence around noon.

    We were supposed to stay at an AirBnB spot, but unfortunately the owner overbooked. The man was kind and found us a difference place to stay and covered the cost difference. He even met us at the train station and walked us to the other B&B. We stayed at Belfiore40. It was okay… not nearly as clean and private as the AirBnB place looked, but it worked fine for a night. The owner was nice and it included a basic continental breakfast.

    After we dropped our bags, per the AirBnB guy’s recommendation, we headed to Mercato Centrale. The man was a food writer. He told us he’d recently rated Sud Pizzeria as the best pizza in Florence. Who were we to argue with that? Mercato Centrale is an incredible place. The main floor is a huge farmers market and there are the most amazing artisan restaurants upstairs.

    We hung around Mercato Centrale and its free wi-fi for a while, then walked to Galleria dell’Accademia. Our friends recommended that we pre-purchased our tickets online, which we did. You should, too. The line was super long. Overall, we thought the Academia was a bit dull, aside from the David statue. But seeing the David is one of those once in a lifetime sort of things, so, when in Florence! We also saw the Duomo Baptistry and the Ponte Vecchio bridge (built in 996!).

    The next day we visited the Duomo. The church is massive! The outside is ornate and just stunning. We were super bummed the dome was under renovations, but we were able to visit the cathedral. (We decided against walking up the tower. At least, my feet did.) Florence is a beautiful city. We spent the rest of the day walking around, taking in a panorama view of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo lookout point, and then more time in Mercato Centrale.

    If I could change one thing about our time in Florence, we would have bypassed the less than impressive restaurant our first night and spent more time in Mercato Centrale. We went back for a progressive final meal. Per a recommendation from another friend, we got a panino bollito sandwich with salsa verde from Nerbone in the lower level. Oh so good. After that, we went upstairs and got a meat and cheese plate, fresh pasta, and tiramisu. Mmm. Florence, I will forever remember you for your food.

    Enjoy the photos!


    Venice water


    Mercato Centrale


    Sud pizza


    Sud pizza makers


    David with pizza


    David statue


    David statue


    Florence street




    Duomo cathedral frescos


    Duomo Cathedral


    Duomo tower


    Duomo baptistry ceiling




    Nerbone sandwhich


    Cheese and meat plate


    David with tiramisu


    Florence view


    View of Florence


    Florence sidewalk art


    Leah in Florence


    Next up – our final stop: Rome!



    Venice on David’s Birthday

    Spring Break Day Five: Venice – David’s Birthday!
    David is one lucky April Fool and gets to celebrate his birthday all around the world. Last year, we were in Slovenia and Croatia on his birthday. This year, it was Venice!


    David's birthday


    We had our traditional birthday coffee to start the morning, this year with tiramisu! We found a great little restaurant on a canal and soaked up the sunshine as the gondolas rowed by.

    Speaking of gondolas, there’s an official city rate of €80 for a gondola ride. We didn’t have enough to pay for that, but fortunately I came across a great tip! I follow an author on Instagram and saw her post about a €2 gondola ferry. Now, it quite literally takes you from one side of the canal to the other and lasts all of about 60 seconds… BUT! For €2? That, we can do.

    We spent David’s birthday walking around the island and browsing the cute little markets and shops. We had the most amazing pasta for lunch at a hole-in-the-wall joint.

    After lunch, we visited Saint Mark’s Basilica. (Free admission!) Photos weren’t allowed inside the sanctuary, but it was incredible! I spent just as much time looking at the floor as I did everything else. The tiling inside of the church is remarkable. There are so many colors and patterns and designs. (Just Google Image search it!) You can get a glimpse of it from the photos I took just outside the sanctuary.

    We also took the elevator up to the top of Saint Mark’s Campanil for a great view of Venice.

    It was a relaxing day and such a beautiful place to wander!


    Venice canal


    Gondola Ferry


    Leah on a gondola


    Venice gondola ferry


    David holding Del Moro Pasta


    Gondola going under a bridge


    David with a Davide apron


    Leah on Venice bridge


    St. Mark's Basilica


    St. Mark's Basilica floor


    St. Mark's Basilica tiles


    St. Mark's Basilica Ceiling


    View from St Mark's Campanile


    View from St Mark's Campanile


    View from St Mark's Campanile


    Leah and David by a Venice canal


    Where We Ate
    • Ristorante Florida for breakfast. Good coffee and free Wi-Fi.
    • Dal Moro’s Pasta for lunch. Man, this place was so good. They make everything fresh on the spot. David got a red sauce on his pasta and I had pesto. They give it to you in Chinese take-out boxes with a ton of parm sprinkled on top. They also tell you to eat it quickly because it’s best fresh and the taste changes. (And they were right! There was so much we could barely finish, and by the time we reached the bottom of our boxes, the consistency of the pasta had changed.)
    • Ristorante Santo Stefano for a fantastic birthday dinner. David ordered a really great steak and I had one of the menu dinners with the fish.

    Venice Tips:
    1. Avoid all piddles in the street. (There are a ton of dogs in Venice.)
    2. Save money by finding the €2 Traghesso Santo Sofia gondola ferry.
    3. This is an everywhere tip, but buy bottled water from the grocery store. Instead of paying €3 or more, buy the 1 liter bottles for as little as €0,65!



    Our First Views of Venice

    Spring Break Day Four: Venice, Italy Part One

    Venice is a dream! We took a bus from the Treviso airport and arrived in Venice in the early afternoon. We hopped on a water ferry and made our way down the canals.

    I could gush on and on about Venice. It was my favorite city on our trip. Could a place be any more picturesque? (…The answer is probably yes. This place was swarming with tourists. I came across this CNN article shortly after we returned titled “Are We Loving Venice to Death?”) Were it not For the mass of tourists, I would have sold all that I own and moved here on the spot. The canals, the little shops, the colors, the winding streets… I think we should make it a tradition to visit an island on spring break. Being near the water is good for my soul.


    Venice view


    As what I feel might be a right of passage for everyone visiting Venice, we got thoroughly lost before we found our hotel. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, grabbing a bite to eat here and there, and taking it all in. The weather was much warmer than Paris and it was bright and sunny!




    Venice canal


    Venice laundry


    Venice masks


    St. Mark's Square


    St Mark's Basilica


    Venice laundry


    Venice canal


    Venice street and canal


    Where we stayed:
    We reserved two nights through at Hotel San Maurizio. We enjoyed our stay. The staff was friendly, it had fast wi-fi, and it had the cleanest bathroom ever! Cons: the walls were a little thin and we could hear the conversations of the people in the next rooms; the bedding was a bit dated, but clean. San Maurizio was around the corner from a store that sold two scoops of gelato for €2,50 and right across from a serve-by-the-slice take out pizza place. Venice is very small, so everything is within walking distance.

    Where we ate:
    We ate pizza and pasta for lunch at the Art Blu Cafe and had pizza for dinner from the place mentioned above (not sure of the name!).