Coasting along the Amalfi Coast and Touring Tuscany

Quick note: We’ve been moving quickly and it is challenging to keep the blog up with our pace so apologies that this post is a little late! As of now, we have finished our two week Italy tour with Jon’s parents and it was simply amazing. This post is about our second and third stops: Amalfi Coast and Florence/Tuscany. I will sum up our last stop, Venice, as soon as I can! Enjoy! Grazie and ciao!

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The Amalfi Coast

The universe has a funny way of giving you balance when you need it. After 3.5 jam packed days of sight seeing in Rome, we rented a car and hit the windy, narrow roads of the Amalfi Coast. We all needed rest and so it rained. But before the clouds bursted upon us, we enjoyed a sunny leisurely stroll back in time through the well preserved labrynth city of Pompeii. Almost perfectly preserved in a moment in time, it was easy to imagine what it looked like before 79AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted and swallowed the city along with everything and everyone in it. We arrived in the afternoon after the morning rush of tour buses and enjoyed the site in relative peace. Pompeii is stunning, huge, a bit eerie, and completely fascinating.

Upon our return to our cute Airbnb in a town called Praiano, the rain came forcing us to enjoy long and slow mornings in our beautiful Italian villa with it’s grand coastal view. We weren’t complaining. During the rest of our time on the Amalfi we visited quaint towns with quaint stores and quaint cafes in the plazas, in the rain. And we loved every minute.

 

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Some sun on the way to Pompeii!

 

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Coastline sprinkled generously with cute little vilas

 

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Jon’s Dad strolling the streets of Praiano

 

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Walkway to our Airbnb

 

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Jon enjoying the tiny bit of sun we had on the patio

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Vegetable stand on the side of the road had yummy tomatoes!

 

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The forum in Pompeii

 

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A poor soul taken by the lava from the eruption. Preserved by the ash.

 

Touring Tuscany

Instead of sleeping in at 8:30am on Thursday April 30, we stepped up into the Tour of Tuscany WalkAbout bus, found four seats next to each other, and listened (half awake) to our bright eyed and bushy tailed tour guide explain the itinerary for the day and give us a little bit of history of Florence, Italy where the tour started. Tales of merchants selling wool and then switching to banking and making loads of coin, then commissioning art for the church to reserve their seats in heaven, set the stage and context for this flourishing and prosperous land.

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First stop on the itinerary: Siena, one of the many nearby and thus rival cities to Florence. Siena is one of the cleanest and safest cities in Italy but what it really prides itself on are two things: 1) winning a battle against Florence in 1260 (Once. Florence beat Siena countless times) and 2) The Palio. Now if you call it just a horse race to someone from Siena “you will get punched in the face” explained our tour guide, laughing but totally serious. This was one of the most fascinating parts of the tour. Basically Siena hosts two Palios each year (July 2 and August 16) in which all 17 districts compete against each other to prove who is the best. Each district is represented by an animal (there is a Dragon, She-Wolf, Boar, etc.) and for each race a horse is randomly selected to represent them in a grand competition where the horses race around a small square. The whole thing lasts 90 seconds and these are the most important and sacred 90 seconds of the entire year. All year long the people are planning, preparing, praying, and back hand dealing to increase their chances of winning. The winning district celebrates for 3 months straight with party after party in the streets. It is their obsession to say the least. “They are kinda weird people because of this silly thing” giggled our guide.

 

Second stop: Lunch! And not packed sandwiches this time. Lunch was served in a large room with rows of tables set with wine glasses, plates, bread, and lots of wine, overlooking the rollings hills and vineyards of Tuscany. Our view was postcard perfect. The food was delectable and plentiful. And the wine flowed and flowed.

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The view during lunch

 

 

Third Stop: San Gimignano, the cute hometown of our lovely tour guide. This little town is set up on a hill and back in the day they built a wall around the city for protection so if they wanted to expand they went up and not out, explaining the stone skyscrapers. We roamed the quiet cobbly streets of this picturesque town, ate award-winning gelato which actually did in fact taste even tastier and creamier than other amazing gelato we’ve had, and absorbed the gorgeous views.

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Ancient skyscrapers

 

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Owner of the most delicious gelato on earth!

 

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The fake-looking but totally real backdrop

 

 

Fourth Stop: The grand finale- Pisa! This was the last stop on our tour and probably the least interesting except for the huge bell tower that really does look like it is just minutes from falling over. In reality it is about 500 years from falling. Like good cheesy tourists, we did the obligatory but totally fun pushing-the-leaning-tower-of-Pisa photo op. It was hilarious to see everyone standing around acting like mimes with their hands in the air, grinning. Once when Jon was posing for a shot with his hand in the air a guy ran up to him, high fived him and ran off laughing. Good one random dude.

 

I know doing a 12 hour organized tour sounds exhausting, but it was actually quite a relief from the rest of our DIY adventures! There is no way we could have planned to see all of these great sights on our own in such a short amount of time and had any shred of sanity left over. The day was a perfect mix of guided tours, free time, resting on the bus, and site seeing. I couldn’t stop thinking all day about how nice it was to be led, to be fed, to not have to think about how to get to the next stop or where we would stop to eat or what that cool building is over yonder. It was all planned for us and we were just part of the tourist herd. So for a day we relaxed, sat back, and LSEDI- Let Someone Else Do It. (I know, the acronym needs work).

 

More pictures of Florence:

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The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

 

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How we all felt at the end of the day

 

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Fountain in Florence

 

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Outside the Uffizi Museum in Florence

 

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Jon’s mom and I made it to see the real David!

 

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Duomo at night in Florence

 

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My sis Julia and her bf Michael traveling with us

 

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There was NO shortage of selfie sticks! But we resisted and did our sefies the ol fashioned way!

 

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Home made pasta dinner again!

 

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The train out of Florence, heading to Venice!

 

Stay tuned for gorgeous pictures of Venice and our next help exchange in Tuscany!

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