Sunday, July 17, 2011
After two weeks, we have returned home. Italy was beautiful! Here is a recap... The above photo is our daily breakfast while at a bed and breakfast in Florence, about mid way through our trip.
We started our journey as a family of eight. My husband and myself, our two daughters, my mother-in-law and father-in-law, my sister-in-law and her fiancee. We took flights from the US to Venice... we had some flight issues, including missing a connecting flight due to "heat sensor issues" in the plan from Chicago, causing a layover in Helsinki, and an hour and a half on the tarmac. After said flight issues (more than I listed here), we arrived in Venice, but without all 8 of our checked bags... they were "lost". So, bagless, we headed to Venice for two nights. The hotel was in a less busy area of the town and was very nice. We took a tour that had us walking around, hearing the history in the morning, a break for us to find lunch and then heading back for a boat tour in the evening.
Next, we headed on to Vernazza, one of the Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre means 5 towns, and Vernazza was the one we stayed in. One day we went to the Northern most town and hiked back to Vernazza. The hike was 3K and took us about 2 1/2 hours-it was on the side of the cliff, sometimes with no railing, just a drop off. It was scary, invigorating and a joy for the eyes. Beautiful sights, wonderful food and wine and swims in the ocean. We still didn't receive our bags, so we bought swimsuits, sunscreen and a few necessities.
The next day we all traversed on to Florence, another beautiful, historically significant town. Florence was more busy than the first two towns, quite a change. On our second day there we took a tour which bussed us first to Sienna, then on to an organic farm that showed us around their family farm, served us a delightful lunch and wines all made there except cheese. Delicious! After lunch, we boarded the bus and headed to San Gimignano, the city of towers, and after that we went to Pisa. Yes, we took the silly photos holding up the leaning towers. ;) We returned to our hotel to find that our bags had still not arrived.
We called and told the airport to send our bags home, when they had been found. We were going on to Assisi, my parent-in-laws were heading on to Rome and my sis-in-law and her beau were heading to the Amalfi Coast. Too much trouble to try to get the right bags to the right people in three spots.
We four went to Assisi and followed in St Francis and St Clare's footsteps. Amazing, simply beautiful, the religious sentiment and the town, too. Not nearly as touristy as Florence and peaceful. It was warm, but it had a wonderful breeze. It was nice for us to share that time just us four.
The next morning the four of us got on a train and headed to Rome, where we were all meeting back up for the remaining last three days. Amazing ruins everywhere you looked! At this point I was nearly on information overload, seeing the statue of David in Florence, as well as many other historical artworks, then Sistine Chapel and Vatican City in Rome, the Coliseum, so much to take in, so much to learn or relearn... a once in a lifetime family trip, for sure!
Then, we had more flight issues, and learned from a neighbor that only 6/8 bags had arrived at home. A missed connection (our flight from Rome to Madrid was held up to wait for a late family-thirty minutes late, which put us eleventh in line to take off...) you guessed it, missing our flight from Madrid to JFK. We had gone through security and all eight of us ran through the airport to make it with a minute to spare, so we thought...The plane was still at the gate in Madrid but they told us, even though we had one minute to gate closing time, we couldn't get on. :( The airline wouldn't check for another flight, just told us we were scheduled for the same time... the next day. A total of thirteen people missed that flight... The airline put us up in a nearby hotel, with three free meals. We didn't go venture out, knowing we'd have to spend more money, when we could have free meals at our hotel. It had internet and a nice pool, which made it bearable. :) The weather was beautiful that evening!
The next day we hopped onto our flight and then sat in JFK for our four hour layover... then our plane from JFK to our home airport wouldn't start, so we sat on the tarmac some more and they came and jumpstarted our plane... always makes the passenger feel safe. ;) But, we made it around 11 pm, exhausted and ready to sleep in our own beds. :) Another bag came while we were in Madrid, but my husband's was still missing when arrived home. It came on Friday, twelve hours after we had been home. No luggage for two weeks... We had packed too much, probably, and were very thankful not to have to lug them uphill to some hard-to-reach hotels, but it was frustrating, also.
I have uploaded the (about) 1500 pictures from my camera, as well as our girls' cameras. I need to weed them out, still, get rid of duplicates, etc, but that will come later this week. I have been catching up on emails and reading blogs, as well as doing the small bit of laundry we had to do. Another bonus of losing luggage? ;)
Thank you for making it all the way through this post! :) I will be posting more, and more regularly, now that hte preparation for international travel and the actual trip are over. :) Hugs to you, dear reader! :)