Thursday, December 27, 2012

Split, Croatia

The last stop on our two week jaunt was Split, Croatia. A wonderful city built around the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian. We didn't have a tour guide this day so we just wandered around and spent the day at the beach. There were lots of little touristy shops that had cute things but luckily for my wallet's sake, they don't use the euro so I couldn't spend any money while I was there. It's a really cool city and the crumbling palace walls are pretty awesome. The half-nude beach was pretty hilarious too and I can now say that I swam in the Adriatic sea and saw a group of men in Borat swimsuits. Great way to end the vacay. 

Here's the view as we were ferried into the city...


Cathedral of Saint Domnius....


The super old palace walls....


 Statue of someone probably important but I don't speak Croatian so it's anybody's guess....


The Borat men. Sasha Baron Cohen should be proud.


More of the beach... I swam waaaaaay far out into the Adriatic Sea. It was kinda cold at first but really fun.


Better view of the cathedral and outside of the city....


Where I swam...


Le sigh... vacations always end way too soon. I would go back right now if I could. I would love to live in one of these cities at some point. Here's to dreaming....

Ravenna

Ravenna was the last stop in Italy. If you want to see some amazing and super old mosaics, you need to stop in Ravenna. You can see the Early-Christian and Byzantine mosaics of the 5th and 6th centuries. It's fascinating how old these mosaics are yet what fantastic condition they are still in. A-to-the-mazing. We were to the Basilica of S. Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, and Dante's tomb. 

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo....



Galla Placidia....





Basilica of S. Vitale...



The glass tube things that they cut up to make mosaics...


These are two signs that are outside Dante's tomb that I liked...
"I will not yield to this misfortune"....


"Virtue and Honor"....


Ravenna was really fun and sweet and felt very "country" compared to the other cities we visited. There weren't nearly as many tourists and it was a very small city. We found some delicious food (as we Mack's tend to do) and just wandered around the rest of the day. Loved it.

Italy, you did not disappoint. Now on to Croatia...

Venice

After a thrilling day and a half at sea, we landed in Venice. We spent a day and a half in Venice. It is a beautiful city but, honestly, a day and a half was the perfect amount of time. We pretty much saw all of Venice in the first half day we were there. Venice isn't very big and you have to walk a ton because there aren't any cars in the city and so you get really tired, really fast. But I will say, the shops and glass work there is beyond anything else. Stunning. And every corner you turn there is another perfectly framed photo to take. So, if you're a photographer, this is your city. Seriously, the landscape is gorgeous but there's not as much to actually do there. 

Here we are trying to navigate through the very confusing streets of Venice. I think we were lucky we found our way out. It's like an Italian maze. 


Of course I had to take a picture of the gondolas. Like I said, so picturesque (although my photos aren't the best).


We took a boat tour through the main canals and got to cover a lot of the main sites from the "street" perspective.


We went to Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica and saw some beautiful mosaic and glass detailing.



The streets are swimming with glass shops. I bought some cheap glass earrings (I obviously had spent the majority of my money on the Amalfi Coast...) and they are some of my favorite earrings to wear. I would get a lot more of them if I ever go back.


Here's the best picture I took of the romantic Venice canals. It really is a breathtaking and romantic city.


Amalfi Coast

I know, I know, I know, maybe I should've finished this a long time ago since it's been well over 6 months since my trip. But it's better late than never and I wanted to make sure to record this epic trip. Also, there are other posts I have in mind but I'm not letting myself move on until I finish the cruise ones. So.... here comes my day on the Amalfi Coast (definitely in my top three of stops we made).

We first stopped at a shop/factory where they make sea shell cameos. We got to watch some being made and it's incredible the detail they can get on such a small surface. I bought a small cameo as a souvenir. It's a flower and super beautiful! It was made by the apprentice rather than the master because there was a large difference in cost and I couldn't really tell the difference.



Then we stopped at an inlaid wood factory where we got a tour of a small family owned business. It's beautiful what they can do! And the process is long and tedious but gorgeous in the end.



I bought a little inlaid wood jewelry box. It's small and sweet and lovely. It's on the table below...


Then on our scary drive down the teeny tiny highway along the Amalfi Coast, we stumbled upon this little produce stand and...
 This stunning view!!! And...

This ginormous lemon!


More of the natural beauty... The day was so cloudy but that water was so clear!


Then we went to a ceramic factory where they make and paint/decorate ceramic tiles, tables, plates, etc. I bought a beautiful ceramic tile that's painted to look like the scenery above. We couldn't take pictures inside the factory, so here's the outside. Not quite as exciting, but still.



This is the view off the cliff of the restaurant where we ate lunch. Pretty much the whole coastline drops off into the ocean. Beautiful but a little frightening at the same time.


This is the restaurant where we ate lunch and I enjoyed some of the most amazing pizza of my life. Seriously. The crushed tomatoes and mozzarella were SO fresh and delicious. I don't really remember much about the other food we ate, so it's safe to say the pizza was the best thing.


Then we went to Ravello to explore the most quaint town/commune on the Amalfi Coast. Ok, I don't know that for certain because I was only on the Amalfi Coast for a day, but it really was so cute and I could've spent an entire day in that city alone. There aren't any cars actually in Ravello, the streets are too small and are basically little sidewalks between buildings. This was probably the widest street there....


We went to the gardens surrounding the Villa Cimbrone and it was beautiful....



 The drop off the cliff...
 Some of my cute family on top of the hillside...
So that, in a nutshell, was my experience on the Amalfi Coast. I literally could've spent all two weeks of our cruise exploring the towns and shops and factories. And we didn't even touch Naples or Pompeii or Mount Vesuvius! But I had to continue on to the next city.... Venice!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Roma

Rome, Italy. 

Definitely in my top three favorite places we went. It was amazing that we were only there for about 8 hours but saw SO much. I could've probably stayed for a month and not seen everything, but we got the essentials in. 

First was Vatican City to St. Peter's Square. The columns were huge and the detail on everything was incredible. 



 This is our awesome tour guide. Legit. He was incredible.
 Then we went inside the Vatican. In the picture below you can see Jesus giving Peter the priesthood keys in the inlaid scene. It was beautiful!
 Nuns. How appropriate. They were too cute!
 The Pieta by Michelangelo. It was so beautiful! The way the artists can make a rock look like flowing robes is beyond me. But I appreciate it.
 Daddy-O enjoying our tour. Katie's eye is there enjoying it as well.
 More of the breathtaking detail that is everywhere.
 One thing I learned was that everything is made out of stone in the chapel. I couldn't believe it. The "painting" below looked too intricate to be a mosaic. But...
 ...when you looked closer, you could totally see it. I can't even begin to imagine how much time that must've taken.
 There was a procession of sorts for a mass that was being held later. I'm not super familiar with Catholic customs, but this was cool to see.
 Confession, anyone?
 More of the awesomeness.
 The view from the front looking back. It's huge!
 The Swiss guards. I love their outfits! Haha.
 That's me in front of it all!
 Next was the Coliseum. Another incredible destination.
 The inside.
 The fam-bamily in front of it.
 A closer look.
 The Trevi Fountain. Another beautiful part of Rome. I definitely threw a coin over my shoulder into the fountain to ensure my return to Rome.
 The Pantheon.
 Katie and Kellie pondering deep thinking inside the Pantheon.

A random Roman wall that is oh so awesome. 
 The Spanish steps. So romantic :)
 Another view of the steps.
 Me drinking out of the Fontana della Baraccia. Another thing I didn't know was that you can drink out of any of the fountains with running water in Italy. So I did. And I filled up my water bottle too.

 That was it for Rome! There were lots of other stops along the way. Plenty more churches and fountains and works of famous people like Bernini. Basically every corner you turn, there is another amazing thing to see. AND we had the best meal in Rome. Of course we had gelato, but this restaurant was incredible. It probably helped that our tour guide ate with us and ordered for us. Also, he was so impressed that all of us girls ate everything and throughly enjoyed ourselves. Hooray for the Mack's who like to eat!