Aren't pictures worth a thousand words? Well, I'm going to save you the trouble of reading 75,000 words and have selected the best twenty percent for you to view at your leisure. Lots of things we weren't allowed to take pictures of, so, quite naturally, there are not very many pictures of some of the spectacular things we saw. Let's just say, it was a wonderful couple of weeks with Grandma and Grandpa!
Florence was crowded, rainy, and charming in its artsy way. We enjoyed a very central location and took in the local culture by eating at a late hour without the kids (we went as couples, taking turns watching the kids). The art museums were spectacular, but exhausting, as museums are wont to be.
Rome was, well, really old. It was sweet to see the ruins and imagine a thriving city there at one time, but honestly, Turkey has better ruins. Imagine that, better ruins. :) In Turkey they let you climb all over the ruins and really get close. But Turkey doesn't have the Colosseum or The Arch of Constantine. I really enjoyed seeing in person all of the things that hitherto have only been a page in an art history textbook. The process of getting to the Sistine Chapel was way more complicated than I ever dreamed it could be! We waited in line for 2 hours (our fault for not having reservations...but, as a plus, we went on a free day and saved a lot of money), then we were led through what felt like miles of anterooms gloriously decorated with frescoes, paintings, gold, carvings, etc. before we ever got to the Sistine Chapel. Once we finally got to Michaelangelo's masterpiece, you would have thought that we wouldn't have much art appreciation left in us. The man clapping his hands and bellowing out "SI-lence!" to the hoards below didn't help with that problem. Despite the downsides, however, it was still amazing. I have no idea how anyone, or even a group of people, could paint something so masterful and so beautiful. Extraordinary. St. Peter's Basilica blew my mind. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I love that it is still functioning as a church and not a museum or merely a destination for visitors. It was very prayerful and reverent as well as overwhelmingly beautiful and glorious.
The Colli Hills, about 40 minutes from us, are really quite lovely. It was nice to be out in nature and away from people after so many crowds, lines, and bustle. We enjoyed our hike to the top. Matt was such a trooper hauling Dominic up there in a baby backpack. Grandpa carried Cate in the other backpack and was a tropper too (she's just not quite as heavy). We saw some really gnarly vineyards, olive trees, and a persimmon tree. As a side note, we do not recommend not-quite-ripe persimmons. Psch, eckk, yuck! They taste like chalk and give you the worst cotton mouth you've ever had.
Verona was a charming city. It was a quaint little place full of its own wonders. The entire city is built upon Roman ruins. It has great shops, restaurants, and fun places to see. It was a joy just to wander around.
Lastly, we went to Venice. I know I've already posted about Venice, so I'll keep it brief. We went after a rainy day. The city had a slightly sewagey smell. But despite that, it was still a very endearing city. Because of the ill weather, we were able to walk right into St. Mark's Basilica without waiting at all. That was a miracle. It was a gold, Byzantine wonder. There are mosaics everywhere! According to Rick Steve's, who knows all, of course, the ceiling is as large as a football field and to do the mosaics would be like paving a football field with contacts (but of different shapes, etc!). We also took a boat ride to Murano island and saw a very brief demonstration on glass-blowing. I wish it had been longer because it was really fascinating. Mom and I gave in and bought necklaces with Murano glass beads. They're pretty cool, I must say.
At home, in Padova, we had a little (early) birthday celebration for Cate with a chocolate torte. She sure enjoyed that! It was wonderful to have Grandma and Grandpa here to celebrate it with us.
We had a fantastic time and wore ourselves out with wonder. Now it's back to the everyday grind, which is much less exciting...and exhausting.