Italy, Day 6: San Gimignano

When we arrived at Poggibonsi station, the bus going to San Gimignano just left a few minutes before and the next one will be after an hour. We were not in the mood to go around so we just sat in one of the areas in the park. Good thing it was sunny so the cold did not bother us.

APRIL 17, 2019

When we arrived at Poggibonsi station, the bus going to San Gimignano just left a few minutes before and the next one will be after an hour. We were not in the mood to go around so we just sat in one of the areas in the park. Good thing it was sunny so the cold did not bother us.

From Poggibonsi, the travel to San Gimignano took less than 30 minutes. Even outside the main gate, we could already see the medieval architecture of the walled town.

We went first to DUOMO DI SAN GIMIGNANO, which housed a lot of religious murals and paintings. There was also the Chapel of Santa Fina and Chapel of the Conception inside.

For lunch, we went outside the main gate to reach TRATTORIA RIGOLETTO. We ordered aglio olio, spaghetti al ragu, and a meat main dish.

And, because we heard about the famous GELATERIA DONDOLI, what else to do but order gelato for dessert! I got the cioccolato and their popular Crema di Santa Fina (orange cream-flavored with bourbon vanilla pods, San Gimignano saffron pistils, and Pisa pine nuts)… It sounded weird and actually tasted weird (but tolerable) hahahaha! Buti na lang I had the cioccolato to mix it with.

In an attempt to burn the calories we ate, we planned to climb the TORRE DEI CUGNANESI. We climbed a lot of steps before reaching the final round of steps for the tower… and we chickened out when we saw it. It was so high and in between each step, there was no cover so you can see all the way to the bottom. We took a commemorative photo instead then just checked out the artwork sections.

We explored the rest of the town and inner streets before heading back to Florence in the mid-afternoon.

Italy, Day 5: Basilica di Santa Croce

From Naples, we took a 3-hour Trenitalia trip to reach Florence. Since we had time to kill before our Airbnb check-in, we left our luggage in the storage near the central station then headed for Basilica di Santa Croce (€8). The architecture of this church is a fine demonstration of Italian Gothic architecture.

APRIL 16, 2019

From Naples, we took a 3-hour Trenitalia trip to reach Florence. Since we had time to kill before our Airbnb check-in, we left our luggage in the storage near the central station then headed for BASILICA DI SANTA CROCE (€8). The architecture of this church is a fine demonstration of Italian Gothic architecture.

Many famous Italians are buried here such as Galileo Galilei, Dante Alighieri, Michelangelo, and Niccolò Machiavelli.

Niccolò Machiavelli’s monument being restored

After seeing the memorials of these icons, we went to other parts of the church and found more artworks.

We were not sure where to eat lunch afterwards so my sister checked out Google Maps and found this place called SOUL KITCHEN. She ordered carbonara while I got the fried chicken fillet. We set our expectations low because the place was famous as a bar so we were not sure how the food would fare… Man, we were totally blown away by their carbonara! Soul Kitchen had one of the best carbonara ever.

We checked in at our Airbnb and took a bit of a rest then my sister asked me to accompany her to buy a leather belt. She did a thorough research on where to buy authentic Florentine leather belt and she decided to go to Michelangelo’s store.

Initially, we thought his shop was closed that day but apparently the door was just locked. Michelangelo was really nice and talkative while we were there. He even offered that we could hang out the next time we’re back in Florence. My sister is very happy with her purchase plus she got a discount. We also got our tatay a leather wallet. Click here for his official website.

For dinner, we ate at PIZZERIA FIRENZE NOVA, which was just near our Airbnb. I ordered lobster pasta while my sister was spaghetti al ragu. It was okay but our experience was ruined by a rude staff. We were not finished with the parmesan cheese when he removed it from our table while eating. Initially, we thought another table needed it but we saw him place it inside a cabinet. He also kept on looking at our table. Maybe because we did not have any reservation and he wanted to kick us out ASAP?

Italy, Day 4: Amalfi Coast (Part 2)

In Amalfi, our last stop for the tour, we had a closer view of everything the sea and houses near the shore. But before going near the sea, we went first to Amalfi Cathedral, which is dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle. His relics were said to be kept here.

APRIL 15, 2019

In AMALFI, our last stop for the tour, we had a closer view of everything the sea and houses near the shore. But before going near the sea, we went first to AMALFI CATHEDRAL, which is dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle. His relics were said to be kept here.

Afterwards, we went to the sea shore where it was very windy. The weather was good so people were either sunbathing or taking pictures with the sea as the backdrop.

We were back in Naples before 5PM so we decided to eat early dinner at L’ANTICA PIZZERIA DA MICHELE. The place gained worldwide fame when it was featured in “Eat, Pray, Love”. We were lucky that there was no long line when we got there so we were seated inside in less than 30 minutes. We ordered 1 regular margherita pizza and 1 double mozzarella margherita pizza. The latter was the better option because it was cheesier.

That’s it for our Naples adventure!

Italy, Day 4: Amalfi Coast (Part 1)

We availed the “Sorrento, Positano, and Amalfi Tour” from Viator, which costs around €80+ per person. Our first destination was Sorrento, which is the home of limoncello.

APRIL 15, 2019

We availed the “Sorrento, Positano, and Amalfi Tour” from Viator, which costs around €80+ per person. Our first destination was Sorrento, which is the home of limoncello. We first visited SORRENTAGRI which sold limoncello in various alcohol volume %. I was not a fan of both 20% and 32% but then again I don’t drink alcohol.

After buying small bottles of limoncello and cooking aids, we headed to the city center of SORRENTO and we were given free time to explore the city on our own.

My sister and I went to the famous DAVIDE IL GELATO and I got a 2-flavor cup: limone (lemon) and nocciola (hazelnut). Good thing I got the nocciola to neutralize the sourness from the limone.

We walked around some more before going back to the parking lot to reconvene with the rest of the group…

Second stop was POSITANO where we had a great view of the ocean and houses built in the cliffside village.

We had our lunch at RISTORANTE LA CALAJANARA where we had a simple 3-course lunch, part of the tour package. My sister and I were seated with a fellow tourist from Sweden, and we exchanged lots of stories about traveling and our home countries.

Last stop of the tour will be continued in the next post. 😊

Italy, Day 3: More Rome-ing Around

Before lunch, we visited San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains). It is named as such as the church is dedicated to the imprisonment and liberation of St. Peter.

APRIL 14, 2019

Before lunch, we visited SAN PIETRO IN VINCOLI (St. Peter in Chains). It is named as such as the church is dedicated to the imprisonment and liberation of St. Peter.

Grabbed a quick lunch at McDonald’s before heading to our last stop in Rome.

We were supposed to go to Palatine Hill but rain was pouring heavily so we just decided to check out CIRCUS MAXIMUS as it was very near the train station. It was previously a chariot-racing stadium but there was nothing much to see. It was something that we thought we could have just skipped.

And that marks our last stop in Rome before hopping into the Trenitalia train that would take us to Naples. We had an EU pass, which was super sulit because we visited different cities and countries during our EU trip.

Italy, Day 3: Roman Ruins

This was one of the days I was really looking forward to because I would see the Colosseum with my own eyes! But first, we visited the Arch of Constantine as we were waiting for the time slot of our Skip-the-line tickets.

APRIL 14, 2019

This was one of the days I was really looking forward to because I would see the Colosseum with my own eyes!

But first, we visited the ARCH OF CONSTANTINE as we were waiting for the time slot of our Skip-the-line tickets.

The staff was nice enough to let us go inside the COLOSSEUM 15 minutes before our scheduled time. We first picked up the free audio guide before climbing to the topmost level. There were a lot of uneven steps and some were even steep so be careful if you have bad knees.

After more than an hour of exploring the Colosseum, we went to ROMAN FORUM, a plaza with several ancient government buildings. Our STL tickets included free pass here so it was not a hassle to go inside. The place is ridiculously huge that we were not able to visit everything, especially the buildings that required a lot of climbing.

Spring was also already present because there were blooming flowers around us.

Italy, Day 2: Rome-ing Around

We woke up very early to see Trevi Fountain without the big crowd yet… and it paid off! Couldn’t help but be in awe of this Baroque fountain – imagine how the detailed structures were done.

APRIL 13, 2019

We woke up very early to see TREVI FOUNTAIN without the big crowd yet… and it paid off! Couldn’t help but be in awe of this Baroque fountain – imagine how the detailed structures were done.

The other tourists around were nice enough to give us some space so that we can capture nice photos. My sister also told me to throw 3 coins over my shoulder – first coin means you will return to Rome, the second to achieve love, and the third for marriage.

From the fountain, we walked going to SPANISH STEPS, which connects lower Piazza di Spagna with the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti. There is also a beautiful church at the upper piazza but it was closed during the time we visited.

Next stop in our itinerary was PIAZZA VENEZIA, where the first thing we saw was Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II.

A short distance from Piazza Venezia was FORI IMPERIALI. Building the series of fori (public squares) were started by Julius Caesar and some of the places we visited were Forum of Caesar, Forum of Augustus, and Forum of Nerva.

We went to SAN GIOVANNI IN LATERANO (€2) afterwards and this was one of my favorite churches that we visited during the whole trip.

Our last stop before lunch was SANTA CROCE IN GERUSALEMME. It is considered as one of the seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome.

For lunch, we went to BOCCONCINO and ordered the following: spaghetti del cavaliere alla carbonara, ravioli dell’osteria (ravioli filled with soft ricotta cheese and meat, sautéed with pistachios and dried tomato sauce), and filetto di maiale avvolto in guanciale e cotto al forno (pork fillet rolled with ham – baked and grilled). My sister also got a tiramisu for her dessert.

Our last stop for the day was SCALA SANCTA, wherein the stairs were claimed to be the very steps that Jesus Christ climbed when he appeared before Pontius Pilate. We were very lucky that the stairs were uncovered during our visit! I read that it was uncovered for the first time after 300 years and that by July 1, 2019, all steps were covered with wood again. Pilgrims actually ascend the steps on their knees.

We went home early because I was not feeling well, and we were lucky that there was an Alice restaurant across our Airbnb. Alice specializes in pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice).

Italy, Day 1: Historical Rome

From Old Bridge Gelateria, we hopped on a bus going to Piazza Navona, a famous plaza in Rome and created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

APRIL 12, 2019

From Old Bridge Gelateria, we hopped on a bus going to PIAZZA NAVONA, a famous plaza in Rome and created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

A little bit of a walk from the plaza, we reached PANTHEON. It is originally a Roman temple dedicated to Roman gods and now it houses the tombs of famous Italian icons including Raphael.

Last stop for our Day 1 was BOCCA DELLA VERITÀ (Mouth of Truth, €2). This was featured in one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn films, Roman Holiday. Legend goes that the mouth bites off the hand of a liar.

Before heading back to our Airbnb, we bought take-out dinner from TRAPIZZINO, which is famous for their trapizzini (pizza pockets). We ordered polpetta al sugo (meatball with sauce) and parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmigiana).

Deliziosa!

EU, Day 1: Vatican

Our first order of business for our first day in Rome was to visit Vatican. We headed straight to St. Peter’s Square followed by St. Peter’s Basilica.

After years of saving, EU trip finally came true! First country we visited was Italy, and I was really excited for this one because I would get to eat pasta all day everyday. We flew with Etihad from MNL-CDG then took another flight from CDG-FCO (Rome) via AirFrance.

APRIL 12, 2019

Our first order of business for our first day in Rome was to visit Vatican.

We walked around ST. PETER’S SQUARE and I shared with a friend that upon stepping into this place, it felt like the Lord’s blessing was closer than ever and I was humbled by His grace. It sounds weird but he assured me that that was how he felt too when he went there.

Next, we fell in line for ST. PETER’S BASILICA. Initially, I thought to myself that the line was long but when we went outside after going around the basilica, the line was 3-4x longer. The basilica was so huge that we were not sure where to start… I even took a long time to streamline which pictures to share here.

Next, we headed for our scheduled meet-up place for Skip-the-Line ticket to VATICAN MUSEUMS (bought here).

The guide accompanied us until the entrance inside Vatican Museums and she said goodbye to us once we got our STL tickets from her. Good decision because the regular line was insanely long outside. However, the crowd inside was also big that my next thought was to go outside already. Haha!

I honestly cannot remember the names of each room or section that we went to and it took us about 2 hours to finish seeing everything. Sharing my favorites from the museum visit:

We had our late lunch in PANIFICIO BONCI, a small but famous bakery in the area. Once inside the store, we got a queue number. We were nervous what to order because there were no labels or descriptions… we also did not know how to say that we just need a small portion because all the other customers were speaking in Italian. When it was our turn, it was a relief that the staff was able to get our orders exactly the way we want them.

Dessert was, of course, gelato! We dropped by OLD BRIDGE GELATERIA, a famous gelateria near the Vatican. They had more than 10 flavors displayed and I got the option of having 2 flavors in 1 cone.