EuroTrip 2019: Italy (Our Last Stop)!

*by Whitney*

Timeline: August 20-27th

If you haven’t already, you can check out my previous posts on our trip timeline here:

This was our 14th and final country on our European adventure! We had been anticipating going to Italy for a long time, so while we were sad to leave beautiful Croatia, we knew there was more amazingness to come! For this trip, we only had planned stops in Venice and Rome. We originally weren’t even going to go to Italy this trip. But, we were able to find good rewards flights using points out of Rome. So we planned just two stops, although we know there is so much more to see in Italy in the future!

Venice

We had a rough time with transportation getting from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Venice, Italy. Our plane was initially delayed. Then, while we were waiting to board the plane and were standing on the tram to take us across the runway, a man in the tram collapsed. He ended up coming to, only to pass out a second time. Sadly, the man also lost control of his bowels/bladder during this. There was a lot of concern for the man and additional delay as we waited for EMS to arrive. We finally made it to the plane, and to all of our surprise several minutes later, they let the man on the plane! We couldn’t believe it. After they finally got the doors locked and ready for take-off, the man (who was actually seated right in front of us), passed out AGAIN! At this point, they told him he would not be able to fly, and they escorted him off of the plane. We couldn’t believe they let him on in the first place given his illness and passing out multiple times. After all of his delay, we finally made it to Venice. Once there, we had an ordeal with buses to try to get to our Airbnb on the outskirts of Venice in Mira, Italy.

When we finally arrived at our Airbnb it was very late! But, to our delight, our Airbnb was awesome. It was a beautiful family home where they rent out the entire upstairs to guests. We had a small but lovely room, very nicely decorated. There was also a huge kitchen/living area open to the guests and a washing machine which is always nice! The host was very welcoming, and we met a couple that was staying in the next room who had also just arrived that evening. As we were getting ready for bed and planning out the next day, our fellow Airbnb guests invited us to ride into town with them the next morning since they had a rental car! This was so nice and unexpected, and we gladly accepted!

The next day ended up being an absolute blast! We rode with our fellow guests in their rental car from our Airbnb into Venice. Neither we nor they really had plans for the day, other than to sight-see, so we decided to sight-see together! We parked on the outskirts of Venice, because you can’t drive in the center due to all the canals and narrow walkways. Then we took a long route walking through winding passages, over bridges and the canals. We got to know our new friends and enjoyed lots of laughter, great conversation, sharing of our cultures, and some photo shoots! They were recently married and living in London, but one was from Poland originally and the other from Greece. We also decided to do a gondola ride together, splitting the cost (although Jared would’ve preferred to skip it altogether, but I was glad he conceded!) After our action-packed day of sight-seeing together, and a lunch stop for some pizza and Aperol Spritz, we decided that we would all cook dinner together at the Airbnb. So we visited a local grocery store and made a big meal together. It was a wonderful and unexpected surprise to make such good friends, and it really made our visit to Venice that much more special!

On our next day in Venice, our new friends had plans to go on a tour to the nearby islands (Burano and Murano), but we decided just to do more sight-seeing on our own in the city. So after some trials and tribulations, we navigated the bus system to get into town. We wandered through some new parts of the city we hadn’t been to, and we took some lovely photos by the water! We finished with a nice Italian dinner and wine in the city, much to my delight! Then of course we had to get gelato before heading back to our Airbnb! The gelato in Italy was unlike anything we’ve ever had before- much different than regular ice cream or even gelato you get in the US!

Right before we headed back for the evening, something completely unexpected happened. Remember my earlier story about the man who became ill before our flight to Venice? WE SAW HIM IN VENICE! We could not believe it. Of all the thousands of people, we passed by him and his wife on the street! So, fortunately, he survived and made it to Venice eventually! We were relieved to know he didn’t have any life-threatening illness after all, both for his sake and for our own!

Overall we had a great time in Venice. We definitely felt it was crowded and over-priced, so I’m not sure it is at the top of our list of placed to go back to. I do wish we had made time to visit the islands nearby, but who knows maybe someday we’ll make it back to those! But nonetheless we had a great few days there, and I felt it was very romantic! Plus, we had the best Airbnb, even if it was a little outside the city. If anyone is reading this and would like the information for our Airbnb hosts, please let us know!

Rome

Our next, and FINAL, stop on the trip was Rome! We booked a train to Rome, but rather than leaving out of Venice, since we were staying to the west of Venice on the way to Rome already, we decided to depart from the next city to the west, Padua. We were able to take the local bus from our Airbnb to the train station, then get on the train. This was actually one of the nicest trains we’ve been on with very comfy seating! We were able to see some lovely views from the train as we made our way through the country, including through the Tuscany region!

Upon arrival, we headed to an Airbnb on the outskirts of Rome for our first couple of nights. We had some hotel rewards to use in Italy, so we unfortunately ended up moving accommodations twice during our few days in Rome. We try to avoid that when possible, but we didn’t want to pass up on our hotel rewards! So we had two nights in Airbnb, one night at a fancy hotel, and one night at a not-so-fancy hotel.

Our Airbnb wasn’t in the nicest part of town it didn’t appear, but we didn’t have any trouble or feel unsafe. We just felt the area was extremely dirty, with trash all over the place. The Airbnb itself was extremely nice. We didn’t see the host hardly at all, and we had our own private bedroom and bathroom that felt like a hotel room. Also, because we were staying more on the outskirts in a residential area, we were able to find some affordable local restaurants with delicious food! We took full advantage of local pizza, pasta, tiramisu, and of course more gelato!

With only a couple days in Rome, we wanted to try to hit as many of the major attractions as possible. We decided to get the RomaPass to be able to see some of the sights. Our first attraction was the historic Coliseum and the Roman Forum! I had been there before with a student group in college, but that was 9 years ago, and Jared had never been, so we were very excited! These amazing pieces of history did not disappoint! We also checked out the Capitoline Museums, and later went to the Piazza Navona.

The next day, it was time to move from our Airbnb to our nice hotel, the Rome Cavalieri, (A Waldorf Astoria Resort). We were very excited about our free night at this lovely resort, using a $250 resort credit from my Hilton Aspire card. But, we didn’t know how much of a pain it would be to get there! We soon started to realize that the Rome public transportation system was one of the worst we had experienced anywhere in the world! It took us several hours to get from our Airbnb to the hotel, due to several late and missed buses. At some point, we considered just forgetting about the bus and getting an Uber. But we found out all of the Ubers were 30 euros or more for just a few short miles! We really couldn’t bring ourselves to pay that much, so we continued to wait on the buses.

We finally arrived at the hotel and got to enjoy it for the afternoon. We went to the lovely outdoor pool and lounged around the room enjoying wonderful views of the surrounding area, as the hotel was situated upon a hill a little outside the city center. Then, fortunately we were able to take advantage of the free shuttle from the hotel to get into the city center (but weren’t so lucky on the way back later that night because the shuttle only ran certain hours). That evening, we visited the amazing Pantheon! Neither of us really knew much about this structure, but we were astonished at its architecture and history when we visited. Upon a recommendation from someone, we downloaded the free Rick Steves audioguides for the Pantheon and other areas of Rome. We were able to get a really good sense of the building and its history using the audioguide. Later, we used the audioguide for the “Heart of Rome,” and did our own walking tour through the famous Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and surrounding areas. We would highly recommend downloading the free Rick Steves app and listening to the audioguides for various parts of Italy and Europe!

The next day was our last full day in Rome (and on our trip)! We enjoyed a very fancy breakfast at the hotel, and were able to take advantage of free access to the newly renovated spa! They had a “Roman bath” there, which was basically a warm jacuzzi bath, as well as a “Turkish bath,” which was a hot steam room, with a freezing cold pool in the center! After much deliberation, we took the plunge into the cold pool, then jumped out back into the hot steam room. It was so invigorating! This was an awesome start to our last day in Rome!

We had scheduled a tour of the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel for our last day, so we made our way there from the hotel, after checking out and leaving our bags at the desk. Because the hotel was relatively close to the Vatican, we decided to take the 30 minute walk there rather than take our chances with the bus system! The walk there wasn’t so bad because it was mostly downhill (but the walk back later was rough)!

The Vatican museums were amazing! We saw so many amazing collections there, which reminded us of touring the Louvre museums in Paris! Then, we got to see the famous Sistine Chapel, which I had seen before during my first visit to Rome, but was brand new to Jared! Last, we visited the massive St. Peter’s Basilica! We used the Rick Steves audioguide for all of these locations at the Vatican, which gave us much more insight than just touring them by ourselves! By the end of all this, we were pretty exhausted! Rome and the Vatican were amazing! But we were ready to head back and move to our final hotel for the night, and get ready for our flight back to the US the next day!

Unfortunately, our awful Rome transportation saga continued as we made our way back to the fancy hotel to pick up our bags, then head to our last hotel for the night. When we booked and planned all of this, we really didn’t realize how far everything would be away from each other, and how challenging it would be to get from A to B. We had an awful time with the buses from the first hotel to the next hotel (which was also free by the way using Jared’s IHG points). It ended up taking us another two hours or so for what should’ve been a 20 minute drive. Where the bus finally dropped us off, we ended up having to walk a half a mile or more with our bags, in the least pedestrian-friendly area, followed by a trek up a steep winding driveway to the hotel. Clearly no one was ever expected to arrive at this hotel on foot! Upon arrival, we saw two tour buses unloading a hundred people, who beat us to the check-in desk! After all this, we finally got checked in around 9pm, about 4 hours after leaving the Vatican. And this new hotel, the Holiday Inn, let’s just say was a far-cry from the 5-star Waldorf Astoria we had just checked out of that morning! Also at this point, we had not even had dinner yet. Since we were clearly in the middle of no where at this new hotel, our only choice for dinner was the over-priced restaurant in the hotel. Luckily the food was decent, and I was happy just to have some food and not to have to leave the hotel again.

All we could do was laugh at this awful turn in circumstances on our last night in Europe! If we had had any idea it was this much hassle to move hotels a second time, we would’ve just paid full price to stay a second night at the Waldorf Astoria! But, who could’ve known! Oh well – guess it makes for a better story, ha!

The next day, we had to make our way to the airport for our flight back to the US! Jared wanted to stick with public transportation, but I said no way! I was not about to go through another ordeal with the Rome public transport and wind up missing our flight! So, we ended up paying the extra money to get a taxi from the hotel to the airport!

Luckily everything went pretty smoothly on our last day of transportation back to the US! We were sad to leave Europe after almost 4 months, but we were excited to be heading back home, with many more exciting adventures to be had in the coming weeks within the US!

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