A Summer in Italy & Paris

If you were to ask me eight months ago, "Hey Nat, what are your plans for the summer?" I would have told you that I was going on a dream trip to Italy and France. Now that the dream has came to fruition after returning home three weeks ago—which I am quite literally re-living in my head every day now—I can finally put together the post we've all been waiting for. For those who may not know and are just now stumbling upon my blog, my cousin Lindsay and I embarked on a two week trip to multiple parts of Italy: Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and Venice as well as Paris, France. 

After five months of rigorous planning, prepping, and booking, Lindsay and I were shocked when our main voyage rolled around the corner this August. I'm sure others have planned big trips in shorter amounts of time, but since it was just her and I going we had to make sure we could support ourselves and create our dream trip of a lifetime so we didn't miss a thing on our to-do and to-see lists. 

If you thought this would be a relaxing trip, think again! We had a jam packed itinerary (with some days for spontaneity, exploration, and a small amount of rest of course). It might be easy to assume that both Lindsay and I fell in love with Italy. And we sure did. 

- - - Rome - - -

I wish I would have watched The Lizzie McGuire Movie before I landed in one of the most ancient cities, the "cradle of Western civilization". Despite setting the mood with a DCOM classic movie, I didn't know what to expect in Rome—for what would be an incredible kick off to our Italian journey. 

Things We Did

Lindsay and I had many things listed on our itinerary, we knew that we needed to make and see the most of Rome in the two full days that we had there. The major sights to see on our list were the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain. 

Amidst our adventures throughout the city, we found it easiest to rent Lime scooters (sadly no Vespas for us) because we already knew how much walking and how hot it would be in Italy this time of year. We both shocked our legs, but thankfully one of us is used to mountain hiking to motivate the other...wink. 

Everything we saw amazed both of us. It was the first initial shock of the trip—we did it. We made it. 

I think the top highlight of Rome was definitely visiting the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. With murals you've seen pictures of on Google—in person it just took our breath away. Including Michelangelo's fresco, The Creation of Adam. 

Things We Ate

We knew for a fact that all we wanted was pasta, pizza, and wine. And did we have it. In addition to the occasional Aperol spritz, I think my favorite meal was spaghetti with a perfect, straight-line view of the Pantheon. Watching people in the square, sipping and nibbling on buffalo cheese and caprese, and deciding that "yep, this is the best dinner and a show I have ever been to". 

Most nights, if not all, Lindsay and I ate late dinners. Small breakfasts, pastries, and espressos in the morning on our walk to our first destination, a panini for lunch, and then a big pizza dinner around 9 or 10 o'clock. I can't forget to mention our mid-afternoon siestas...during the hottest parts of the day, we would head back to our place to recoup and nap before heading out on the town again! 

Things We Loved

One of my favorite moments was scootering around the Colosseum after touring the inside of it. We also were just awestruck by the amount of ruins blended into the modern architecture of different areas of the city. Every corner had a piece of history we wanted to know more about. The Roman Forum was also a great place to see and walk through ancient parts of Rome. 

Another memorable moment I had was eating a cannoli at the Trevi Fountain and just basking in the magic of that place. When in Roma! 

- - - Amalfi Coast: Sorrento, Capri, & Positano - - -

Things We Did

Ever since I began watching Nicki Positano of The Positano Diaries on YouTube during the pandemic, I have dreamed of visiting the Amalfi Coast. The southwestern cliffside coasts only reachable by ferry are vertical dream towns. Colorful buildings, a vibrant marina, seaside restaurants, many many stairs, and lovely local shopkeepers, artists, fishermen, and lots of tourists visiting at the end of August. 

Over the course of the next four days in Italy, Lindsay and I took a train from Rome down to Naples to catch our ferry to the coastal town, Sorrento. Where we would be staying on a lemon tree farm Air BnB with a lovely host who provided us with intricate breakfasts and recommendations for seeing other surrounding coastal towns and helping us book a boat tour to the island of Capri. The four days we spent in Sorrento, Capri, and Positano. 

Things We Ate

Lindsay and I were obsessed with the amount of deliciously fresh seafood. Not to mention endless aperol spritzes and lemon sodas our heart desired. Our favorite meal was in Sorrento in the Marina Grande, the restaurant was called Portamarina. It was so popular that we waited in line with a glass of wine along the dock. 

I had my first half lobster, with linguine pasta and of course white wine. We also had fresh bread, calamari, and Lindsay ordered swordfish which actually tasted like grilled steak. Topping the night off with homemade tiramisu before our nighttime trek up the cliffside. 

Another memorable thing we had to eat in Capri was homemade lemon sorbet in an actual frozen lemon. All about the lemons! After a sweaty day on a stunning chairlift on the island, it was the perfect treat. 

Things We Loved

By far one of Lindsay and I's favorite memories was planning a last minute boat trip to Capri on our second day. We weren't really sure the itinerary of places we wanted to be but our host at our Air BnB helped us book it off of Marina Grande. 

We were with a small group of about eight people and had Peronis and caprese sandwiches while we rocked out and basked in the glory of the incredibly blue waters of the island--seeing the caves (not going into them unfortunately due to high waters) and grottos, as well as, jumping into the ocean which was a top tier Mamma Mia moment. 

Another cherished moment I had was when we visited Positano on my 23rd birthday. That was the ultimate, non-negotiable plan. To be there on my birthday. And we made it!

It was just as I had seen in Nicki's vlogs and Lindsay and I had the most wonderful time exploring the beachside, eating seafood risotto, and swimming at a private beach. I also met Nicki's best friend, Elizabeth, who works for the Blue Star boat tours there. To top the birthday extravaganza off back in Sorrento, we went to this restaurant that was also a lemon tree farm and garden. It was truly magical. 

- - - Venice - - -

Both Lindsay and I had expectations of Venice: many canals, bridges, boats, ferries etc. But what we didn't expect was how calm the city was. There were no ulterior forms of transportation, obviously, and no busy roads or streets. Sometimes the nights became really eerie walking through the dark and ominous alleyways. It was almost a maze. And of course, you're on an island!

Things We Did

We planned an itinerary catered to experiencing a bit more of the local life. We booked this pasta cooking class and wine tasting--which was one of my favorite experiences because we met so many other (American) tourists who came from different walks of life, all sharing a day for one common goal. To make a meal. 

Our plan was also to embrace the calmness and Lindsay and I didn't feel the need as much to plan or visit so many sites. Although we made sure to take a gondola ride (not worth the money, but you have to do it once). Walked over the famous Rialto bridge, fish markets, scaled the lookout tower in St. Mark's square, and visited the glassmaking island of Murano. 

Things We Ate

Majority of Venice was eating a mixture of seafood and pasta dishes. However, one of the best meals we had twice was just from a small pizza joint across our alleyway that served delicious fire roasted pizzas--we'd grab a couple bottles of beer and take it up to our rooftop terrace and stare at the stars at night since Venice's light pollution is so low. 

Our cooking class was also a great Venetian meal--sea bream, handmade pasta by us, crisp arugula salad, fresh bruschetta, and melon with prosciutto--can't forget the homemade tiramisu! 

Things We Loved

All in all I think my favorite part about Venice in itself was just experiencing the city by boat. Whether it be waiting late to catch a ferry or taking our private taxi James Bond style back to the airport. You really get a feel for Venice by the main way to get around--boat! 

It was a floating city, filled with warm people who are proud to live there. Artists, chefs, fishermen, gondola captains, and even the man who poured my espresso every morning had a vibrant glow about them. Lindsay and I fell in love with Venice and what it stands for...or continues to floats for. 

- - - Paris - - -

Last but certainly not least--the place of Nat's 12 year-old dreams. Paris! After a much relaxing four days in Venice, we flew to the City of Lights for our final destination. 

Rather than a fully dedicated Italy trip, Lindsay and I wanted to fit one more country in (technically the Vatican is its own country).

Things We Did

Paris, as a busy city similar to Chicago, didn't intimidate me...and neither did its French people. Little Nat has always dreamed of seeing the Eiffel Tower-- and did we! Many times. Our hotel was about a 20 minute walk away and we saw it every single day.

Not to mention seeing the Louvre, Sainte Chappelle, Notre Dame, the Seine River, and touring the epic Versailles. Amidst it all--seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time was a breathtaking moment. 

And of course we had to drink champagne and eat macarons at the very top. 
Things We Ate
Between Lindsay trying snails for the first time, French onion soup, juicy steak and lamb, ratatouille (which just tastes like zucchini stew), ginormous flaky croissants, I would have to say the most memorable meal was eating a hot dog on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. The last time I was in France, Cannes to be exact, I also had a hot dog the first day I arrived. And these hot dogs aren't just any hot dogs. 

They're in a full on baguette. 

Besides that, we made it a point to do a picnic lunch the Parisian way--a baguette, meat, cheese, and alcohol (we tried getting champagne or wine, but opted for seltzers since they were easier to carry). 

Things We Loved

What I loved the most about Paris was probably just basking in the glory of the Eiffel Tower honestly. It's hard to miss and there was always something new happening below it. 

Whether it be a street vendor, festival, birthday party, or engagement. There was so much life in Paris and it was like walking through a dream down every street. The people were pretty nice too. 

- - - A Trip to Remember - - -
As I sit in my basement, reminiscing about this trip and how it came to be, I wouldn't change a single thing about it. And as much as I wish I could recap all of it on this blog, some of those memories are just going to be kept by me. 

For anyone dreaming of a place. Dreaming of a trip. Dreaming of an adventure--persist. Keep at it. Make a plan. Stick to it. It will all be worth it. Until my next adventure awaits...

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