Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lune di Miele in Italia - Parte Una

After months of searching, debating and prioritizing, we finally settled on a honeymoon to Greece.  We postponed the trip until Mr. Palindrome's spring break which afforded us extra time on the trip and to plan. We were going to spend a few days in Athens before heading to a relaxing resort on Crete.  We bought a few guide books, a myth refresher, and a phonetic pronunciation guide.  I went on a shopping spree for cute sun dresses to wear in the coastal towns.  Judging by the title of this post, you can guess that we didn't make it to Greece after all.  When we tried to check in to our flight the night before, we were informed that our flight had been canceled and that Greek airport workers were striking. 

The 12 hours following that realization was a whirlwind.  I remember my in-laws calling a few times as they tried to figure out if they could get their airline miles back to use on another trip for us.  I remember looking at last minute travel deals and cruises, considering a weekend at a B&B in North Carolina, and wondering if we should just have a stay-cation.  Simultaneously, Mr. Palindrome's parents heroically researched, talked with airline agents, and pulled in favors for lodging.  Sometime around midnight it was decided that the honeymoon could be salvaged in our given time frame if we rerouted to Italy.  A quick "Ciao bella!" and we had packed our bags bound for gelato, art, and the other great pillar of western civilization.

At JFK, I drank my last American coffee (heretofore referred to as crap coffee).  Neither of us could sleep on the plane for very long so we arrived in Rome exhausted, hungry, and needing a hot shower.  We hobbled our way to the hotel with mismatched luggage, crazy bed hair, and wild caffeine withdrawal eyes.  We walked into the St. Regis Grand Hotel and I immediately regretted wearing yoga pants to travel, instead wishing I was in my sassy  black pants and patent high heels.  We slinked into the hotel restaurant to wash down some croissants with cappuccinos then hightailed it to our room before embarrassing ourselves any further with our backpacks and camera bags.  The room was beyond our expectations in every way.  It was a splurge we would probably never take ourselves and thus, a perfect gift from our in-laws.

We knew we should make the most of our first full day, but the siren song of a nap was too much and we only ventured out in the afternoon to a nearby museum.  Consulting the guidebooks that we bought in the airport, we planned a full day to take in the ancient ruins.  We snapped this picture at the coliseum before the rain started and we bought overpriced street umbrellas.

We were careful to check when museums and sights were closed and arranged our sightseeing accordingly.  Even though it would have been a good experience to attend mass at St. Peter's, we also really wanted to see the Vatican Museum (housing the Sistine Chapel), so we spent most of the day Saturday waiting in lines.  We got a pretty big kick out of the immodestly dressed stick figures warning visitors outside of the basilica.
We took cues from an old version of Mona Winks (a guide to famous art in Europe by Rick Steves) and stopped for a cappuccino  at the top of the museum for a great view of St. Peters.  However, by this time, we had figured out that sitting at the tables tripled our beverage prices, so we drank at the bar and then ventured outside with only our camera.

On the 4th day of our trip, we took the train to Florence and learned a few lessons at the train station (i.e., generally people offering to help you buy your tickets aren't being altruistic, but rather expect money for a "cafe" . . . riiiiight).  Other than missing our original train, "tipping" another person to help us reissue the tickets, and being fined on the train for not validating our tickets on the platform (we had read about this in the guidebook but didn't see the machines), we arrived in Florence relatively unscathed.  Again, we were in for a treat with our suite at the Excelsior Hotel.

Even the elevator foyers were nicely appointed with paintings and chandeliers
We also were greeted by a lovely bottle of champagne - a treat we got used to at each hotel we stayed.
We love to eat and the food in Florence did not disappoint us.  In Rome, we felt like we spent a lot of money on food that was ok (we let a waiter order for us one night and ended up with a 200 euro bill - yikes!).  In Florence, we still spent a lot of money, but the food was delicious.  I can't remember the name of this restaurant for the life of me . . . maybe it had something to do with the wine pitcher that was refilled by some friendly Greeks we met.

In addition to the food and wine, the atmosphere was just charming.  This picture was taken after the place had mostly cleared out.
We walked everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  So I think my number one recommendation for an European vacation is to bring comfortable walking shoes.  Walking also has rewards other than working off the bloating from gastronomic delights, such as beautiful views of the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

We stayed in Florence for 5 nights, but used it as a home base for a few day trips as well.  In Parte Due, we'll explore Tuscany, Pisa and Milan!


Ms. Wedding Crasher said...

What a gorgeous hotel!

Katie said...

eek-how exciting! I didn't know you guys ended up Italy (how could I have), but it's really fun to compare pictures!
I just finished recapping our Italian honeymoon where went to Milan, Sirmione, Venice, Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, and Siena.
Loved it!