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Driving, Europe, Italy, Travel

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

May 8, 2017
5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence
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For the past two summers, I have rented a car in Italy. Not only do I feel a little more local when I do this, but it also allows me to see the smaller towns that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Don’t worry driving in Italy isn’t as scary as people make it sound and Italian road trip is one of the best road trips!

Renting a Car

Renting a car in Italy is easy. I would recommend using Auto Europe, click here to check rates. I used them the last time I rented a car in Italy for the month, and they offered the best rates.

Rome is my starting point for renting a car because I cannot drive a manual transmission and there are more automatic cars available in Rome. Also, the rental desks are open till midnight. If you want to spend time in Rome, then I recommend renting the car after your time in Rome as parking in Rome is difficult and expensive.

Day 1 – Rome to Amelia

Once you arrive at the Rome Fiumicino Airport and rent your car, get on the road to your first stop or stay the night to rest up. If you come late in the day or are jet lagged, I recommend spending the night at the Hilton Rome Airport, check rates here. It is a short walk to the terminal and will allow you not to have to rent the car right after getting off the plane.

The first stop is the Parco di Monstri in Bomarzo, about one hour and a half from the Rome airport. This historic park is full of scary and wacky sculptures. Built by Pier Francesco Orsini in memory of his wife, Giulia Farnese in the 16th century. Both from well known Italian families.  The park is only accessible by car, so it is a must do while on a road trip in Italy. Allow 1-2 hours to explore the whole park.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

The next stop is Amelia, which is only about 45 minutes away from the park. Amelia is one of my favorite towns in Italy, and some say it is the oldest city in Umbria. The walls are ancient and in fantastic condition. There is an archaeology museum and many beautiful churches to explore. For dinner, I recommend La Locanda del Conte Nitto, which has beautiful food and views of the ancient streets of Amelia.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

Day 2 – Amelia to Assisi

Spend the morning finishing exploring Amelia and then head to the town of Assisi. If Assisi sounds familiar, it is because it is where St. Francis of Assisi was born. At the end of the town is the famous Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Basilica is stunning with views outside of the surrounding valley and colorful frescos inside. I recommend going early to beat the crowds.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

After that walk, through the town to the other side and head to the Rocca Maggiore. The Rocca Maggiore is the town’s ancient defense fort and overlooks the whole area. If you head to the top of the tower, you get an even better view.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

Stay the night in Assisi. You will want to, after all that walking. There is a public car park near the Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum hotel, which is the hotel I recommend in Assisi, check the rates here. Not only are the rooms located in a historic nunnery, but the hotel has a spa located in the Roman baths below. You can get a massage till eight at night, which is just the cure for you aching feet. Not only that you can eat with great views at the in-house restaurant of Eat Out, where the menu is seasonal and local.

Day 3 – Assisi to Gubbio

After enjoying your breakfast in Assisi, take the short drive to Perugia. Perugia is the capital of Umbria. It is known for its celebration of the arts. The highlight here is seeing the underground fortress, Rocca Paolina. The fort was started in 1540, and most of it was destroyed by the 19th century. Now you can explore the cellars and basements that are still standing.

Find more history in the short drive to Gubbio. Gubbio is a town built into the side of a small mountain and makes for stunning views of the city and the valley below. Due to it being integrated into the side of the mountain, you can take elevators from different levels of the town. There are tons of things to see in this city, but the architecture of dark gray stone buildings is intriguing and makes you fee like you have stepped back in time.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

Make sure you make it to the top level of the town to see the Cathedral of Gubbio. It has a stain glass window that is gorgeous. The views from up here are almost a must see. If you are really brave, you can take the funicular up to Basilica of Saint Ubaldo.

Day 4 – Gubbio to Siena

Spend a few hours in the morning exploring the things you didn’t get to see yesterday in Gubbio. Don’t forget to see the Palazzo dei Consoli built in the 14th century with running water. Then make a long drive to Siena. You are now in Tuscany! The entire historic center of Siena has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlight of this is the Siena Cathedral with its amazing gothic architecture.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to FlorenceThen make a long drive to Siena. You are now in Tuscany! The entire historic center of Siena has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlight of this is the Siena Cathedral with its amazing gothic architecture.

If you go to Siena in the summer, try to be there around the historic Palio di Siena. It is a medieval horse race that takes place in the Piazza del Campo. Who doesn’t want to see men ride horses through an ancient town in costume!

Day 5 – Siena to Florence

Given the short drive from Siena to Florence, you can spend the morning in Siena before heading to my favorite city in Italy, Florence. You will begin to see the rolling hills of Tuscany on this route. Driving through Umbria has you driving through the mountains, but now you will drive between them.

In Florence, you will return your rental car as driving in the historic center of Florence is limited to residences and can carry hefty fines if you do. Parking is also expensive. You will most likely have to return the car at the Florence airport. You can then take a taxi or the “Vola in Bus” shuttle, which takes you to the Florence train station.

There is so much to see in Florence, so you will need a few days to see it all. But on this first day, I recommend finding a museum that interests you and only do that on the first day. This way you won’t wear yourself out and can enjoy Florence to the fullest. I recommend the Hotel Plaza Lucchesi in Florence. I have stayed here on every trip I have had in Florence, check rates here.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to FlorenceBook tickets in advance and see the Uffizi Gallery on the second day. You will avoid the long lines to get in this way. The Uffizi Gallery has something for every art lover. Be sure to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus while you are there.

Have you gone on an Italian road trip, what was your favorite place? Share with us in the comments.

England, Europe, Travel

London from the River: A Photo Essay

May 1, 2017

London from the RiverThis last weekend in London, I spent much of my time on or near the Thames River. Viewing London from the river gives you a different perspective of the city, especially at night. Many of these photos were taken on a river cruise from the Thames barrier to Westminster, but you can also enjoy walking along the Thames to enjoy the same views by walking on the Thames Path.

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

Europe, Georgia, Travel

10 Fun Things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia

April 3, 2017

Tbilisi, Georgia

Going to a city where you have done very little research in advance is sometimes an advantage. This was the case for me in Tbilisi, Georgia because I was going on a student field trip and we had a tour guide. Most of the itinerary was planned by the students and the tour guide.  However, I found joy in learning about everything in the moment. Here are my ten things you should do in Tbilisi, Georgia.

1. Eat a Churchkhela!

Tbilisi, Georgia

This is the traditional Georgian sweet you will see hanging outside of many shops in Tbilisi. It is made of nuts, usually walnuts; then it is dipped in a mixture of grape juice and cornmeal. It sounds a bit strange, but it tastes good. It isn’t too sweet, and it keeps for a long time. I ate mine over three days!

2. Take the cable car

Tbilisi, Georgia

The cable car is meant to take you to the Narikala Fortress, but the view of Tbilisi from the cable car is not to be missed. And this is coming from someone who is afraid of heights! Best of all it is 1 Lari.

3. Climb the Narikala Fortress

Tbilisi, Georgia

For an even better view of Tbilisi, climb the fortress once you are up there. On one side is Tbilisi and the other is the botanical gardens.

4. Visit the Mother of Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia

You will see this metal statute from just about everywhere in Tbilisi, and while you are up visiting the fortress, you can walk down the path to see her up close. She was once made of wood.

5. Visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi

Tbilisi, Georgia

This ancient looking cathedral was actually finished in 2004! The architecture is amazing, and the inside is still being finished. However, I found the inside fascinating as you can see what is planned and if you stay for awhile, you might be able to see how much progress happens.

6. Try the local wine

Tbilisi, Georgia

Georgia is known for having a huge wine culture. It was everywhere. Since I was on student field trip, I could not partake, but I hear it’s great.

7. Walk across the Bridge of Peace

Tbilisi, Georgia

This pedestrian bridge links old Tbilisi to the new district of Tbilisi. It offers great views of the Kura River.

8. Eat a traditional Georgian meal

Tbilisi, Georgia

The food in Georgia was so fresh and most of it homemade. Try the bread they eat for breakfast; I can’t seem to find the name of it. It is a long strip of bread and is baked over a fire. Eat the lobio, which is a bean soup and will probably be called that in English. The Georgians are also whizzes at dishes with nuts and potatoes, get the roasted ones. My favorite thing was the eggplant slices with a walnut filling! If you have a nut allergy, be careful in Georgia as even salads had nuts on them.

9. Explore old Tbilisi

Tbilisi, Georgia

The architecture in old Tbilisi is so odd and interesting. Some building looked like they would fall down at any moment and some, especially the churches, looked like they would last another 500 years. The bricks are also very different from what I am used to seeing and I loved them.

10. Visit Metekhi Church

Tbilisi, Georgia

Sitting across the river from old Tbilisi, it overlooks the whole old city. The view is great, and you can get up close to the statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali.

I am sure there is tons more to see in Tbilisi, but these are the things I really enjoyed. Most of these things were inexpensive or free as well making Georgia a great place to spend an extended amount of time in.

Have you been to Tbilisi? What was your favorite part?

Asia, Europe, France, Italy, Sri Lanka, Travel

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

March 1, 2017

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Every once and while when I travel I run across the unexpected and the surprising. Many times these are hidden gems. They could be lesser known destinations, an unexpected hotel or a travel experience. Many times they may only be a hidden gem to you and not necessarily to others.

Places

Slovenia – Slovenia is a hidden gem to most people even those who know of the famous Lake Bled and its church. What struck me the most was the beauty of Slovenia. It hits you right as you walk out of the doors of the airport where snowy peaks greet you with green pastures below.

Dropped into a Fairytale in Slovenia

Driving from Ljubliana to Radenci, the green pastures and mountains continued, but I also saw lots of fields filled with yellow flowers. Cows grazed at angles on the sides of hills. Church steeples shot up from the valley floors and called to your with their bells to come see their beauty.

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Florence – Florence – is definitely a hidden gem to me. It took me three trips to Italy to finally go there. This was only after my Mom spent hours extolling the greatness that is Florence. Don’t ask me why I didn’t want to go. I was more into Rome and Venice, and now Florence is my heart in Italy. So much so I went three times last year! I think it is the fact that the city is a museum and there are over 70 museums to visit. I have only seen about nine of these even though I have been there three times. Guess I will have to go back!

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Giverny – Many people know Giverny because Claude Monet painted many of his paintings there. What some people don’t realize is that he painted his famous Water Lilies pieces based off a pond on his property there. You can visit both his house and his gardens. As a Monet fan, I had to do this when I went to Paris. Most travel sites talk about to go from Paris to Giverny as a day trip. However, there is more to Giverny than Monet.

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Monet must have inspired gardens in Giverny.  The whole town is one long garden. Many people that live here have gardens in their front yard that line the main street, and they are lovely. There is a small area where shops and restaurants can be found. I had this “salad” there that was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Salad is in quotes because while there were vegetables, there was no lettuce of any kind.

Hidden Travel Gems Found While Traveling

While I can’t be sure, as it is the only small French town I have been to, it was the classic French country village. I walked from one end to the other several times and rarely saw another person until I reached Monet’s house. It has the added benefit of Monet’s house and the Giverny Museum of Impressionism.

Hidden Travel Gems Found While Traveling

Hotels

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum – Booking a hotel hours before staying there is not usually my style, but I would happily do it again if it led to hotels like this. Not having tons of time to research the hotel, I didn’t realize it used to be a monastery that was built in 1275! There are only 18 rooms in this hidden gem. Each one is unique.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

That isn’t all! The ancient Roman baths are below and have been transformed into a spa. I had one of the best massages of my life in this spa. The space is gorgeous, and you can relax the underground pool.

Heritance Kandalama – Hidden in the jungle is a hotel that is probably the longest hotel in the world. The hotel was built by famous Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa. The hotel was built into nature with open air hallways so that rain and animals could move around and under the hotel unobstructed. There was a warning on the balcony door to keep it closed, so monkeys won’t come inside!

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Never in my life have I wanted to stay a hotel one more day so I could take pictures of it. It sits on a reservoir that imitates a lake. Birds, monkeys, elephants and giant squirrels can be seen on the property. The views over the reservoir are also stunning. There will be a full review of the hotel coming soon, but this is a sneak preview!

Hidden Gems Found While Traveling

Want to share your hidden travel gems? See how below.

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