Thursday, December 2, 2010

The McCauleys in Italy

Last week my parents and younger sister made the trip to Italy to visit me and, of course see the country for themselves.  They arrived on Monday the 15th of November after a long day of travel.  While they were here, we packed in as much sightseeing as we could visiting Siena, Rome and Venice (they also went to Cinque Terre and Pisa without me).

The Tuesday after I they got here we headed to Siena for the Day.  It was a beautiful little town and I am guessing a lot less crowed then it normally is, since it is off season for tourism in Italy.  Despite the fact that it took us close to 40 mins to find the bus station in Florence, I would say the trip was a success.  We of course saw the Duomo - the main cathedral (there seems to be one in every Italian city).  The Siena Duomo was one of my favorites so far.  It was extremely elaborate inside even though the outside looked very similar to the one in Florence.  Il Campo is the town center of Siena where a horse race takes place every year in July or August ( I can't remember).  Anyway it is a huge open area with a fountain on one side, the Fountain of Joy.  After taking a few pictures we wandered on finding the St. Dominica church which is currently the home to St. Cathrine's remains.  Seriously, the church had both her head and her thumb on display inside the church.  Yes, it was very creepy, but apparently a very common practice in cathedrals throughout Italy and Europe for that matter.  After the church we continued to wander through the winding streets then catching the bus back to Florence.
Harper and me in Siena

On Wednesday I showed my parents Florence! They did some bargain shopping at the outdoor market and went with me to the Piazza Santa Croce and the Santa Croce church.  An interesting fact that I learned was that many famous people are buried in that church including Michelangelo and Galileo.  Anyway, after taking some pictures in front of it we continued on to my personal favorite gelato place, Vivoli. We walked across the river to the Pizzale Michelangelo (which has a beautiful overlook of the city and yet another copy of Michelangelo's David statue).  Luckily we did all the major sightseeing on a sunny day so that the overlook was more then just fog and rain.  Our last stop was the Uffizi museum; my parents and sister, like me, were not terribly into the early renaissance and religious art.  So after about the third room we began mainly looking at the paintings that were behind glass because we took that to mean they were "probably" famous ones.
Mom and Dad at Piazza Santa Croce

Thursday morning we headed to Rome for the weekend! I loved Rome! I have heard mixed reviews from people who had been there, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone traveling to Italy (and Florence of course).  My brother-in-law the chef would have truly been ashamed to know how little we ate during our Rome visit, but everything that we did eat was very delicious.  Pizza the first night at a place called da Baffeto (little mustache) was award worthy and the little pastry shop next to our apartment was great! The first day we visited the Pantheon, Colosseum, Roman Forum, the National Museum, Spanish Steps and made a wish in the Trevi Fountain.  It was a packed day.  I really liked the Roman Forum, it was so cool to walk along ruins that were thousands of years old! Good old Rick Steeves (the author of our guide book) was there with us the whole day, we actually downloaded podcasts off of i tunes so that he could literally walk us through the famous attractions.  Day two in Rome was dedicated to Vatican City.  After waiting in line (in the pouring rain) for about an hour and a half, we got to walk through the Vatican museum that led us to the Sistine Chapel.  The museum was good it had some famous statues and oddly, a whole section devoted to Egyptian artifacts.  The Sistine Chapel was amazing of course but the whole building was incredible itself.  All the long hallways that led to the chapel were intricately decorated and I found myself looking at them almost more then I was looking at the art on display.  We saw St Peter's Basillica at the end of the day.  Because I have been in so many churches since arriving in Europe, its almost as if I expect every church that I walk into to be magnificent; St. Peter's was Grand even by my now, extremely high standards.
The Colosseum

The Tuesday after returning to Florence my parents, sister and I took the train to Venice.  I was a big fan of the city. It was very quaint, and although on a normal basis the tourists out number the locals, it did not seem to "disney-worldish" if that makes any sense.  We took a boat bus down to Saint Mark's Cathedral.  It was huge, and not only sticks out in my mind because the ceiling was coated in gold, but also because the entire entry way was flooded.  While we were in Venice the water seemed unusually high, in fact, the bottom floors of most of the buildings on the main waterway were flooded by at least four feet of water.  You would have serious problems if you got the bottom floor of an apartment there!  We spent most of the day wandering though the city, finding a really cool used book store and the main shopping area.  We had no intentions of buying much, but we stopped into a lot of stores to warm up (it was cold and windy!)

Thursday was my last day with Mom, Dad and Harper.  I went to a great coffee shop in the morning before my class with Dad.  We left plenty early only to realize that you really do not have to do that in Italy because everyone stands up to drink their coffee and slurps it down so you are done in about 5 mins.  We shopped and walked around for most of the day and went out to a restaurant called l'Brincello for Thanksgiving dinner.  Mom and I had wild boar and pasta, Dad had veal and I think Harper had gnocchi.  It was pretty nontraditional, but really if we were home there is no guarantees that we would have had turkey...we may have just made a family trip to the Shoreview Community Center.


  1. Just about as we remember it.........what a terrific tour guide!

  2. actually dad said that. Not that im disagreeing, just getting some things straight. Cant wait till you get home!