The fog rolled into Venice about the same time we did and it stayed put as long as we did. Lucky the city is very much worth wandering through the cold mist to explore. With a lot of things circled on our map we ventured out early to make the most of our first day. We spent nearly five hours wandering alleyways and canals and crossing over several thousand bridges, ticking off all the touristy thing—San Marco Plaza, Rialto bridge, Grand Canal, Bridge of Sighs—as well as some not so touristy backstreets, mainly thanks to some navigational errors. Along the way we saw some of the more than 500 Venetian gondoliers plying their trade. With our flashpacking budget an €80, 30 minute gondola ride was not realistic, so we went for the poor man’s option of a traghetto or gondola taxi service. At €2 each it was a lot cheaper but lasted all of about two minutes, just to cross the river—it was quite fun being packed in with a bunch of people and a restless little dog! We topped all of that off with some delicious pizza slices, cannoli, espresso, and ridiculously rich hot chocolate.
With plenty more to see we set out early again the next day in the direction of Venice’s old Jewish ghetto. We wandered around the streets looking at the old synagogue, plazas and buildings, made a rare sighting of Vencie’s only female gondolier, then made our way to the end of the island to look at the view across the lagoon. From there we stopped off at a gondola repair business that’s been around for hundreds of years and then chowed down on more pizza and, later, some gelato. The Italians know what is good!
Off to Rome we went for a dose of history and more delicious food based adventures. Lucky for us, all of the things we wanted to see were very close to our Airbnb, and the 15+ degree temperatures felt like summer after the last few months spent in Northern European winter. We spent day one wandering around the elaborate Spanish steps, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and many piazzas, all the while dodging rogue cars, scooters and uneven cobblestones. Later, we blew our daily food budget on a pretty delicious dinner of gnocchi, buffalo mozzarella and pasta…when in Rome!
Next up we visited the enormous Vittoriano monument, which has a great view over the sprawling Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and nearby Colosseum. We spent most of the day in the sun checking out all of the old ruins in the area, including columns and arches—a very impressive feat given much of it was built 2000 years ago, long before many of the ruins we’ve seen this year. We finally wandered around the Colosseum, another huge and impressive building with a terrifying past. It’s estimated that more than 500,000 people died and over a million wild animals were killed throughout the Colosseum’s history. Eek.
We made the most of our last day in Italy and our last chance to devour Italian food. We scouted out some delicious paninis near our home base for lunch with tomato, mozzarella, rocket and ham. Then it was on to see the riches of the Catholic Church and the world’s smallest country in Vatican City…they have a lot of fancy buildings and fountains…and their police use tiny Smart cars. What a different place. For dinner, we booked ourselves a table at one of the most recommended pizza places in town, we were not disappointed! And then strolled home passed the lit up Colosseum and onto some of the best gelato in Rome, a perfect end to our time in Italy.