Reggio di Calabria.

We arrived in Reggio di Calabria via train (my first!) really not expecting much. I had read online that there was a great promenade for running (which proved to be QUITE true), but other than that, we really were coming simply because it was a great jumping off point to Sicily, which was to be our final destination in Italy. It turns out, that little ol’ Reggio di Calabria turned out to be awesome. We arrived to our hostel (after booking through hostelworld) only to be greeted by quite possibly the world’s sweetest guy ever who walked us down the street to another place, as the place we had booked was having water problems. Glancing at each other sideways (we have heard that story before), we followed the guy, only to have him take us to a perfect room in a perfect location. Rooftop terrace, great breakfast, wonderful, warm conversation…we couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Anyway, after talking to the guy, it turned out a few hours after we arrived there was something that translated to “the great stroll” which literally meant the entire town comes and walks around the main street eating gelato, window-shopping, teenagers chasing their crushes through crowded streets, lovers loving, families pushing their kids on tricyles…it happens every week, and it was honestly magic. It truly made me wish that I lived in a city where we (not only) had a main street, but had the type of community feel that they had here. Kev and I followed suit and walked up and down the streets snacking for about 2 hours before we came back to our room and turned on HOUSE OF CARDS.

The next day we….

Checked out the Farmers Market right downstairs from our place…
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Admired (and utilized!) the amazing Boardwalk Promenade for running/strolling (told you!)
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Ate delicious (cheap!) food – Great bang for our buck.
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Seafood Risotto
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Fish Lasagna
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Perused an awesome outdoor flea market!!!
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Took in gorgeous ocean views (Sicily just across!)
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One random memory: one night we went to this place that was recommended to us called “Lord Byron” for typical snack foods (pizza, calzoney type things, etc). It was PACKED because 1) it was SO cheap (everything was a buck) and 2) it was the perfect spot for young kids and their friends, or families to hang out. That night, we went and grabbed a quick bite to eat and a couple beers and walked outside to some of their outdoor seating. Right next to us, there was a table with about 10 10-12 year old kids chowing down on their snacks, and one kid drinking a beer trying to look SO cool in front of his friends (which, by the glimmer in their eyes, he was). Anyway, it was a great memory, one that made us both wish we were 11 again, and one I think we’ll always have.

Honestly, it was a great time. The weather was damn-near perfect, and I think we both were a bit sad to have to leave. It was such a slow moving city, but one that also had such a great vibe and energy to it. Attention those heading south! BE SURE TO STOP in REGGIO DI CALABRIA, stay at Casa Laguana and enjoy Southern Italian hospitality!

Amalfi Coast (Minori, Amalfi + Sorrento).

Our trip to the Amalfi Coast was honestly kind of a pain. From our hostel in Rome, walked to the metro, which we took to the outskirts of the city where we did another ride-share. We met at this rinky-dink little gas station (Q8) on the side of the road. From there, we drove about 2.5 hours to an airport, where we hoped bus to a city called Salerno. We were the only ones on the bus (guess we were the only ones stupid enough to head to the coast when rain was in the forecast!). After about a 45 minute ride to Salerno, we were again dropped off at the bus terminal where we grabbed yet another bus (after waiting in the pouring and FREEZING rain for 1.5 hours) to Minori.
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The bus ride the the Amalfi Coast was BEAUTIFUL, but never having great luck driving, I was crazy sick with the switchback turns. Another hour later, we arrived in beautiful Minori, where we were lucky enough to get to walk 950+ steps up the side of a mountain (no joke) with our packs. (Like I said, wasn’t the best day of travel we’d ever had, but certainly not the worst!). We arrived (somehow!) in great spirits (probably due to our insane view) and despite having un-perfect weather, were thrilled to be there.

So, our time in the Amalfi Coast looked a lot like this:
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Ridiculous, right!?

Although the weather wasn’t great while we were there, the views were nothing short of spectacular.
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The colors of the towns “popped” even more given the dark sky contrast
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And the fog/mist rolling in over the hills was awesome.
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We could almost imagine what it would have been like to visit in the summer, or some warm months when swimming might have been possible, but instead we collected rocks…
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Read on the pier (and made new friends)…
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Watched the sunset roll in…
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Enjoyed the town (and the cute little lemon trees)…
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Ate some delicious pasta a couple of nights, and had a really memorable night chatting with the owner one night (we were the only ones in the restaurant, so we were lucky that way). Talking with her was a highlight of our time in Minori, as was her delicious homemade limoncello that she gave us at the end of our 2.5 hour long meal. It is interactions like these that are definitely one of the perks of traveling in the off season. We saw her on various nights of our stay, and both times she took our hands and greeted us like friends. It was great.
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Enjoying views like this from our guesthouse (again, 950+ stairs up the side of a mountain just like you can see mirrored here)
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Walking from town to town on the windy sea-side roads….
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Kevin posing in Minori.
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Enjoying the SEAFOOD pasta (where it couldn’t have been fresher!)
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AND, taking a 7-course cooking class in Sorrento!

Because of all the rain (and the fact that we had been meaning to take a class while we were here), we decided to “bite the bullet” and take the class. After an almost 2 hour bus ride (only about 20km away, again, the switchbacks are no joke) we finally made it to the beautiful Sorrento. It was just us in the class, which was yet another instance where traveling in February has worked to our benefit. About an hour into our class, the chef’s father (speaking no English), beautiful mother (who was one of the classiest women I have ever met in person, and reminded me so much of my great-grandma) and aunt (also, Italian speaker only) arrived to come see what was happening, chat with us and talk food. Honestly, it was exactly like you might imagine an interaction with a bonafide Italian family might be. They were warm, and gracious, hilarious and honestly made our time 1,000 times better than it already was. It was awesome.
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All in all, our time in the Amalfi Coast was amazing. We were especially happy to have stayed in Minori, which was far less touristy than the other cities in the area. Despite our original plan to make our way south, south, south, we decided to head a bit north to Naples as rain was still in the forecast and we figured that if we were stranded in the rain, at least we would be able to indulge in copious amounts of pizza (which we did, but that’s for another post).
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Not Italy Come Kevin! (Rome)

We decided to get back to our backpacker roots (or something) in Rome and stay at a hostel. The hostel was OK, though the common area (the main reason to stay at a hostel in my opinion) was outside of the building and down the street half a block. This wasn’t a huge deal, except for the fact that when we asked the guy working at the front desk if there was a common area at all he told us no but that they were building one (there was construction going on). It was something of a confusing mis-communication. Oh well.

So, Rome. I feel like the past few blog posts are a bit boring in terms of listing things we did, and that’s mainly because we are following a pretty standard tourist path in some of these cities. Any photos you’ve seen of Rome pretty much sum up what we did in Rome.

For example…

We went to the Vatican Museum and saw all of the crazy/famous/interesting/old/plentiful art that lives there.
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We were lucky that we didn’t have to wait in line for more than 20 minutes to get in, but that said, truly the Vatican is overwhelming. We read online that there is apparently 7km of stuff inside Vatican city to see. Crazy. So, we saw what we could see without wanting to kill ourselves and drank cappuccino out in the square when we thought we might. Squeezed through the Sistine Chapel and ooh-ed and ahh-ed in the map room (which was the coolest gallery by far, in our opinion).
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IMG_4785The tapestry room

IMG_4775We sent some mail from Vatican city (get excited)

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After seeing all we could really see in the Vatican (and walking down the awesome spiral stairway leading out)
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we walked to St. Peter’s Basillica which was INSANE (this picture shows nothing). The line of people wrapped around the square was incredible. It must have taken them all day to get in.

IMG_4807We decided (after moseying around for a bit debating whether or not we should get in line) we would instead walk to the Coliseum, which was no small feat, instead. The weather was nothing short of perfect – blue skies and a small breeze to boot, so we figured we’d go for it.

The walk didn’t disappoint.
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IMG_4828Not too far into our walk, the sun started to set, and it was magic.

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And, we finally made it!
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That night, we were starving. We decided to walk (a bit further :)) to a restarant we were alerted to by a chick we rode with on our way from Florence that she and her friends recommended. After arriving an hour earlier than it opened (damn Italians and their late night eating!) we sat in a nearby park and read. Our wait turned out to be worth it, as we had a bunch of amazing food, including carbonara which is something Rome is known for (we had it twice at two different restaurants)

IMG_4845three different types of bruschetta

IMG_4844and some other mushroom/pancetta pasta, which was pretty awesome.IMG_4846

The next day, after seeing all of the major sites we planned to see, we stopped to have a quick “breakfast”

Standard fare:

IMG_2104and cruised around the streets. After about an hour, we happened across a grocery store which enabled us to have one of the best lunches I’ve ever had. This grocery store was really amazing (not fancy), and it kind of felt like something in a movie. A bunch of dudes cutting meat from 15 different types of cheap, beautiful prosciutto. Fresh mozzarella (that is again) super cheap! but also amazing quality. The strange thing for us was that there were literally legs of animals sitting on the counter that you could have cured meat cut from. Anyway, the lunch was awesome. We bought fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella balls (again :)), 2 types of fresh-cut deli meat, 2 types of fancy fresh foccacia bread, a hard cheese of some sort, apples, and a bunch of peel-and-eat shrimp. It was a feast, to say the least (all for 15 euros).

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So, I suppose those were the highlights of our time in Rome. We were only there for 2 days (short and sweet!) but I feel like we capitalized on all of the main attractions and really enjoyed ourselves.

Carnevale in Venice

From Ancona, as I mentioned previously, we decided that we’d go North to Venice. Actually, Lindsay decided that, and when she told me she had decided this was a good idea I was thrilled because it seemed “smart.” I imagine traveling to a new countries in the way that we are traveling to new countries is sort of like what it must be like for a novice sculpture (let’s say the goal is to sculpt a life size dog) to start a new project with a giant, huge, block of clay. It’s tough to know where to start, and it’s tough to know once you’ve started if you’ve started in the right way. But, once you REALLY get started, then things start to fall into place and you realize that at least you’ve started. Or at least that’s how I imagine us…or something.

Anyway, we decided to go to Venice.
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We used Bla Bla Car (a website) and found a ride with two really nice guys (Pablo and Alfredo!). We met at Ikea (which was so awesome, because I love Ikea) and made the three hour drive with these two really nice Italian guys.
Lindsay drinking a beer in IKEA
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Actually, one of the dudes was born in Argentina, but had lived in Italy for most of his life. Aside: there are a huge number of Argentinians in Italy it seems, or we just randomly keep running into them for some reason.

The drive was nice, and I technically was in Bologna (I stepped out of the car for 10 seconds, Lindsay did not. For the record – although she won’t let me count that) when we dropped Pablo off. Bologna being one of the “big” cities in Italy that Lindsay and I didn’t really visit.

On the drive, we found out that Carnevale (which is how they spell it, btw) was happening in Venice when we were going to be there. It’s a bit difficult to explain how awesome this was, but basically there wasn’t a better time to be visiting Venice than during Carnevale season. This also explained why it was so difficult finding a room (Lindsay did an awesome job and we ended up staying right near Saint Marco Square), and why the cheapest room we found was 70 euros.
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Carnevale is a big deal it turns out in Venice, and when we got there at night after taking a train from the nearby city that our driver dropped us off at, it was like a totally different travel experience then we’ve had so far. In general, everywhere we’ve gone in Europe has been pretty dead as far as other tourists go, but when we got to Venice the streets were PACKED with people dressed up in costumes, throwing glitter and confetti, etc. The shops were all open, vendors were outside selling mulled wine, and in general it was a pretty big/awesome/beautiful party. It felt like we stepped into a movie about how cool Venice is on accident. It was awesome.

So we hopped off the train and wee walked a good 2 or 3 kilometers through the zig-zagged streets/canals/etc of Venice and eventually found our hotel. It was nice enough, though very loud (which actually was sort of nice itself) because of all of the people singing/laughing/yelling/talking on the streets below.
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Here I am with all of my devices (compass, GPS and phone trying my best to be inconspicuous)
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So, unfortunately the rest of our time in Venice was spent doing basically the same thing we always do: walking around and people watching. So, pictures will hopefully give an idea of what things were like.
Lindsay and Kevin in Venice
Some memories specific memories include:

People watching…
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Eating a pizza down by a canal one afternoon
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Eating our first legit Italian breakfast (espresso based drink + pastry) – multiple times
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Mulled wine and “spritz” with Campari and dancing to “Uptown Funk” in the city square…
Again, people watching 🙂
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Lindsay had one fun night of dancing and drinking limoncello and watching the fireworks
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Eating these ridiculously delish fried dough and cheese with (once prosciutto, once with sardines (not intentionally) while walking around partying ourselves to DEATH one night(and buying this REALLY cheap and terrible juice box wine and drinking it.)
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Lindsay also went to a cool church one night for service and had a cool interaction with a tiny, little old man that was apparently like 4′ 6″ (inside the church)
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Walking a long ass way to find get to the bus station we were leaving from (like 3-4km through those crazy streets with our packs). Here Lindsay is, stopping for sustenance (espresso + sweet treat) about 1/2 way to where we needed to be…
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Here I am looking just awesome.
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Going geocaching (easy cache!)
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The truth is that most of what we did in Venice is what you’ve likely seen before in photos. The important thing (I think) is to note that Venice completely lived up to my expectations of what Venice is.
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Leaving Venice was a slight pain on account of us having to walk 3ish kilometers from our hotel to the bus station. To make matters worse, on top of being an already (planned) hour early for the bus to make sure we had everything in order when it came, I ended up remembering the ticket time incorrectly and it turned out that we were actually 4 or so hours early. So we spent a long time sitting on the cement reading. Luckily we are no strangers to sitting on the street/sidewalk/dirt/airport/etc for hours, waiting for transportation. At least it was a pretty nice day.