italy vacation: venice

the last leg of our trip was spent in venice. the first day we walked around the downtown area with no real plans... just tried to soak it all in. st. mark's square is beautiful at night, with all of the classical musicians playing outside various restaurants, and even the little light up toys that soared into the sky (that guys tried to sell to tourists) added to the beauty of it all. kind of like fireflies :)

the second day we took the water taxi to the islands of murano, burano, and san michele. murano is known for their beautiful handblown glass. the rose covered doorway below was my favorite sight on the island. burano is known for their lace, and many shops had such beautiful lacework to offer. sarah wanted to stop at san michele, otherwise known as "cemetery island" before heading back to venice. the island is literally a huge cemetery. of course it sounds creepy, and i'm sure it would be at night, but during the day it was beautiful. we walked around most of the island, and stopped to read quite a few gravestones. i swear i felt a strange prick in my pinky finger when i passed one grave, and kept telling myself it was a bug (even though there was no bite mark) until we got back on the boat. haha! i mean, of course it was a bug...

taking the water bus around the islands // beautiful glass in murano // beautiful houses in burano // cemetery island

that evening was our last day/night in venice, and sadly the last night of our trip. we did a little more shopping of course (i had to buy a duffel to fit everything that i wanted to bring home), and we spent the evening in st. mark's square again. it was really bittersweet, but we tried our best to soak it all in.

the next morning we headed to the airport and geared up for our 10 hour flight back to the states. many sleeping aids were involved, and sort of worked, but at least the flight back offered pretty good movies, like one of my favorites, crazy stupid love.

so that was our fabulous italy vacation! hopefully the 4 different posts didn't seem like overkill. it definitely was too much for one post, don't you think? haha.

if you haven't checked them out yet, i uploaded a handful of photos (well, 50) to flickr. there is some overlap with those photos and the ones i share on here, but if you want to check 'em out here's the link.

it's a great time to be a chicago hockey fan!

i wanted to pop in and say how proud i am of the 2013 stanley cup champions, the chicago blackhawks! the final series was intense to say the least, and it really could have gone to either team at any time. both really wanted the cup, and played with everything they had. the boston bruins were a great match, and to be honest, i thought there would be a game 7 for the majority of last night's game. but the blackhawks rallied and clinched the cup in 17 seconds! it was really amazing to watch. congrats chicago!

italy vacation photos: tuscany

from rome we went on to cortona, tuscany. my sister studied in cortona one summer in college and absolutely LOVED it. since then my parents and i wanted to check it out for ourselves :) rome was one of my favorite cities on the trip, and cortona was my other favorite for almost opposite reasons. it's located in the country, and besides the U.S. study abroad program, there weren't many tourists around. i'm really glad sarah had spent time there previously, so we could see the best that the city had to offer.

we went to siena the day after arriving, did a little shopping, and spent the day walking around the downtown area. we stopped by the duomo di siena, and it was the coolest and most unique church that i've ever seen. i called it the "beetlejuice church", lol.

duomo di siena // downtown siena

on our way back we stopped in montepulciano. it was recommended that we buy our wine there, so we tried a few different wines and some amazing cheese at the various shops.

remember the scene in twilight: new moon when bella runs into the doorway before edward reveals himself to the masses in italy? yep, that last photo is me standing in the same doorway, haha!

our last day in tuscany was devoted to enjoying cortona. we did some more shopping, and checked out some great restaurants. the weather finally brightened up towards the end of the day, which was nice. we ventured to the area where my sister stayed while in school, and talked to a few of the students that had just finished their last final.

as soon as i got home, after watching angels and demons i watched under the tuscan sun. again, it was cool to see the various areas around cortona in the movie. we had always loved the ceramic dishes we saw in the movie, and stocked up at the local shop (pictured below). i'm happy to report that all of ceramics made it back safely, haha.

next up is the last leg of our trip, venice. be sure to check out my posts about sicily and rome if you haven't already :)

i uploaded a handful of photos (well, 50) to flickr. there will be some overlap with those photos and the ones i share on here, but if you want to check 'em out here's the link.

italy vacation photos: rome

after sicily, we spent two full days in rome. rome was definitely one of my favorite cities of the trip. it was definitely packed with tourists, but seeing all of the history was unbelievable. it's hard to really grasp the incredible feeling of walking through areas that are thousands of years old. i think it might be because the united states is kind of a young toddler compared to other countries, and the ruins in rome just blew my mind.

when we arrived at the airport, we were picked up by our tour guide alessandro. he had been recommended to us by a friend/travel agent, and he was fantastic! he drove us around to several major spots in the city, and we would have never been able to see everything that we did if we were on foot.  so that was really cool. he kept referencing the movie angel and demons, which was filmed in rome & covered a lot of big sightseeing locations around the city. i watched the movie as soon as i got home and LOVED it, mostly because i recognized all of the locations. i don't know if any of you do this, but i love watching movies filmed in places that i've been. like scenes in the dark knight around chicago, the closing fountain scene of ocean's eleven in vegas, and now i can watch angels and demons and say, "omg! i was standing right there!" please tell me some of you are like this. otherwise my nerd status just hit an all-time high.

here are some photos of what we saw that day:

alessandro kindly showing us around // roman forum // view of rome // outside the pantheon

pantheon // trevi fountain // roman church // roses

the next day was dedicated to exploring vatican city. my family is catholic, so this was a must. we woke up early and went to the vatican museum. we bought tickets ahead of time & avoided the awfully long line, which i would definitely recommend. later that afternoon we went to st. peter's square, and inside the basilica. we also decided to climb the 107 winding stairs of the cupola to view the entire city. at the very top the stairs wind around the dome, and the last set is so narrow that you have to use a hanging rope to keep your balance. that climb was crazy, but it was so worth it. and we earned our gelato for the day.

st. peter's on that stormy morning // laocoon & sons // la pieta // st. peter's basilica

view of rome from the cupola // mailing a postcard at the top // enjoying some drinks afterwards

we were pretty exhausted after that, and decided to see some things later that night. the colosseum being one of them. it was really cool to see it lit up at night, and we spent some time taking photos around the area.

my sister and i had some drinks at a local bar later that night, and the next morning we were off to tuscany. all in all, rome was incredible!

next up in the photo series, tuscany & venice :) check out my sicily post too if you haven't already.

i uploaded a handful of photos (well, 50) to flickr. there will be some overlap with those photos and the ones i share on here, but if you want to check 'em out here's the link.

italy vacation photos: sicily

hey guys, sorry this post/these posts have been a long time coming, it's been a little hard getting back into the routine of things, and blogging has definitely fallen by the wayside. but let's get it started!

a little background on why we visited sicily. maybe we still would have on our own, but a major reason we decided to spend a weekend there was because our family friends were going to be there the same weekend. louie was born in sambuca, and was looking forward to showing us around his hometown. so we flew from chicago to rome, then had a connecting flight to palermo, and drove about an hour to sambuca. we were experiencing some major jet lag, since it's 7 hours ahead of our usual chicago time, but we powered through until the evening. at that point, i think the excitement of being in a new country was helping us out a lot :)

coming from the flat land of illinois, seeing the sicilian landscape of rolling hills was breathtaking! everything was so beautiful!

it was really cool to have our own tour guides in our friends, and their entire family treated us like family, which was so nice. i don't think we would have gotten such an insider/local experience without them. we were able to see some historical sites, we had an authentic home-cooked sicilian meal, and we even had the opportunity to visit a winery while they were having a tasting & offering tours. pretty sweet.

 downtown sambuca // decorations from the festa della madonna di sambuca // ruins

wine tasting

the kelly family with our friends // louie standing outside his childhood home // louie's brother jasper making pizza at his pizza place

it was nice to be in an area of siciliy that wasn't heavily populated with tourists. it did present some language barriers, but it really wasn't bad at all. i would love to go back and spend a full week in samba and some of the neighboring towns. i feel like i can say that about all of the cities that we visited, haha.

i uploaded a handful (well, 50) of photos to flickr a week or so ago. there will be some overlap with those photos and the ones i share on here, but if you want to check 'em out here's the link.

hello hello! i'm back!

selfie in cortona, tuscany ;)

i am back from my italy vacation! actually, i've been back for almost a week, but as soon as i got back i had to fly to florida for work last week. yikes. and the following weekend (last weekend) was pretty packed, so i'm just now getting back into my routine. work is still keeping me really busy, so it might be a few days until i can get all of my photos up here on the blog, but they are all edited! i just have to lay them out and type up the post(s), haha.

i had an amazing time with my family exploring several cities in italy (sambuca, scaccia, palermo, rome, cortona, siena, montepulciano, venice, murano & burano). it was a trip of a lifetime, and i really hope i can go back someday!

hope you all have been well these past couple weeks! i will be back soon! xoxo