I am currently sitting in a business class seat on a train from Florence to Naples on a dream Italian vacation with my family. Someone fucking pinch me. “How the hell did we get here?” is the question that keeps running through my mind. T H I S — I S — C R A Z Y!
In 2007, Danny and I were fortunate enough to come to Italy with my parents on a company trip. On that trip, we went to Rome and Florence in Italy and then Portugal. While Portugal was MEH, I fell in love with Italy on that trip — like a next-level infatuation. Something about the history, the culture, the food, the wine, the art, the churches, the engineering marvels, were mesmerizing to me. See, I took a few classes in art history in college knowing that one day studying the works of Michelangelo, Donatello, Da Vinci, Giotto, and so many others would come in handy. Oh, it did. Priceless, actually. I was similarly awe-struck by the fact that you could be standing in front of a church built around 14 A.D. and a McDonalds just feet away. Everything about Rome makes me feel alive and gives me chills. It makes me emotional. A reminder of just how short our lives are on this planet. How this city, built by Roman emperors so many years ago is still here for us to enjoy. We knew we would be back. But when would be the question.
Just one year later, we were pregnant with Marli… and broke. At this point, returning to Italy was a far-fetched dream. There was no climbing out of the hole we were in. Completely in over our heads with our mortgage and over $100,000 in debt. Traveling anywhere was out of the question. But thankfully, and unbeknownst to us, our silver lining was on the horizon. That silver lining — I call it Team Beachbody.
When I started our business I learned early on what visualization meant and how important it was to future growth. How goal-setting was a critical component to success. This is actually something Danny also does in our real estate business that has paid off tremendously.
While I never dreamt of this Italian vacation early on in our business, it did become apparent to me two years ago that this would become a reality. Initially, I thought it would just be Danny and I coming. But when we started planning we thought “what the hell — let’s take the kids, too.” This was a big step for us. You see, we are still apprehensive traveling with DJ. We did not know how he would do on the long flights or even the long days of sightseeing. But it was non-negotiable that we would do this as a family!
And here we are!
We are currently 6 days into our party of 10 adventure in Italy! Not only are the 4 of us here, so is my sister, and her family, as well as our parents. Thus far, we’ve gone to Venice and Florence and our next stops include the Amalfi Coast and Rome.
First Stop: Venice
Venice has always been a bucket list vacation spot for Danny. For as long as I can remember, he has wanted to come here. He recalls his parents traveling to Venice when he was a kid and seeing the pictures of their trip. So when he turned 40, we made that wish a reality!
When you step off the plane in Venice you don’t jump in a taxi car — you jump on a taxi boat. Yes, a boat! Venice is actually 118 islands connected by bridges so your only method of transportation are your feet and on a boat. It is so cool.
Our hotel in Venice was fantastic. It was called Hotel Ca Dei Conti and was located just a few meters away from St. Mark’s Square. If you’ve never been to Venice, St. Mark’s Square is the center of the city where you see all the pigeons. Actually, our hotel was pretty central to everything which is important. Why? Because in Venice, you walk — A LOT. Oh and Venice in July is hot. Like motherfuckin’ hot. So, get ready to sweat.
Our first day was a blur since it was our travel day. We were exhausted. After checking in, having lunch and gelato, we passed out. When we woke up we got ready for dinner and headed to the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal. It was like out of a movie. We had one of our best dinners at Trattoria Florida (that was a pure coincidence) and then headed back to bed.
The next morning, Becky and I got in a great workout in our hotel’s courtyard (day 1 of Mes de Más) and then we went on a Gondola ride. It was soooo cool! Gondolas are spectacular. Just what you picture in your head! It is crazy how they maneuver those large canoe-like vessels with such ease through tight canals. Later that afternoon, we took a water taxi to Murano — where they make Murano glass and had a private tour and glassblowing presentation. Definitely a must do! We had lunch in Murano and then headed back to Venice and bought tickets to the Doge’s Palace because DJ was dead set on visiting a museum. Don’t ask me why, but we went and he not once asked for our phone or iPad. Pretty cool, eh?! That afternoon we sat at an outdoor cafe and drank Rosé to our hearts content followed by a late night dinner. It was pretty much a perfect day in my book.
The third day brought us our first walking tour. It was a FOUR hour walking tour. You might think that’s not such a big deal, but when you are walking in jeans in the blazing hot sun, it is a big deal! Holy hotness! We started the tour by visiting Doge’s Palace once again BUT with a tour guide. Tour guides make ALL the difference in the World. Knowing the history of the city and what you are looking at is worth every penny. The tour then took us to the birthplace of Marco Polo and then St. Marks Cathedral which is breathtakingly beautiful. After a quick nap, we went to dinner at Trattoria de Carletto — a little (very little) family owned restaurant near our hotel that caught my attention. We drank wine, laughed, told stories and enjoyed a delicious meal. In all, it was the perfect ending to our stay in Venice.
On To Florence
After a fairly quick train ride from Venice to Florence, we arrived at our hotel Hotel Orafi situated right on the Arno River, a couple blocks from the Ponte Vecchio. DUUUUUUDE. As soon as we arrived, we dropped off our bags and began our trek around the city. Our first stop was Plaza De Duomo, the religious center of Florence. Right in the center is the most magnificent and grand cathedral (aside from St. Peter’s Basilica) that I have ever seen. We chose a restaurant right in the square and had a blast. We ate paninis, drank rum and cokes, and then our waitress gave us limoncello on the house! After visiting the Palazzo Pitti and its gardens, we finished our day with happy hour at our hotel’s rooftop bar.
The next day, we slept in and then walked around before starting our tour of the Accademia Gallery where Michelangelo’s David is housed. Again, a tour guide is completely worth it when going to see David because the lines to get into the museum are long and time-consuming. When you see “him” for the first time, chills run down your spine. It is definitely a sight and so inspiring! I won’t give you too much detail because seriously, you need to see him yourself. Our next stop was lunch near Santa Croce and then a tour of the church. It is in this church that the bodies of men like Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Da Vinci were laid to rest. Again, we ended our evening at the hotel’s rooftop bar and prepped for our next train ride to Positano.
I will be back and I will share more about the rest of our trip but for now — it’s time to enjoy the sun, the sea and wine. More and more wine!
For now, arrivederci from Positano!