A Family Road Trip to Italy

by Nina Lozej

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When summer of 2015 was ending, my sister had the idea to go on a short family vacation to someplace warm, but close enough to reach by car from our city, Ljubljana. She wanted me to do the planning and then my dad also joined in. He loves Italy a lot and also knows Italian very well, so we quickly decided on our destination: Rome. We planned our 6 days trip to Italy for the last week of October and hoped for good weather and less tourists. Together with my sister’s husband and their 4 years old daughter (my niece), all 5 of us filled up the car and happily started the journey. The plan was to travel slowly and see some interesting places on the way towards the Eternal City.

Map showing our planned road trip from Ljubljana to Rome

Florence, the City of Flowers

Our first destination was the capital city of the Tuscany province, Florence (Firenze). After 5 hours of driving, we reached Florence at lunch time and so the first thing we wanted to do was to find a decent restaurant and enjoy the taste of true Italian food! After stuffing ourselves with delicious pizzas, we explored the city on foot for the rest of the day. We were excited to walk around the historic city centre, see all the beautiful architecture and marvel at the enormous cathedral – Santa Maria del Fiore. I absolutely loved walking on the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) across the River Arno and uphill to see the view over the city from Piazzale Michelangelo viewpoint. We waited there till it started getting dark to click some nice evening photos of the city.

Me posing in front of Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Evening view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo viewpoint

San Gimignano, the Town of Towers

The next day we continued our journey south towards Rome, but we wanted to see some small touristic towns first. So after some googling we decided to take the local road and visit a cute town of San Gimignano. The weather was cloudy with occasional drizzling, but it did not stop us from walking around the wet stone streets and curiously entering every small church on the way. This small town is full of interesting towers, and offers nice views of the Tuscany landscape and also the “best ice cream in the world”.

Rainy walk in San Gimignano

The shop with “best ice cream in the world” in San Gimignano

Medieval city of Siena

From San Gimignano it was not far to the next interesting place, Siena. We parked the car outside the city wall and walked through this very touristic medieval town. The weather remained gloomy and we did not want to spend too much time outside in the cold, so we found the fastest route to the main square (Piazza del Campo), clicked some photos and quickly returned to the car. We reached Rome in late evening and fell down on our beds of the small room we rented for the next 2 days.

Me, my sister and her husband in Siena (Piazza del Campo)

When in Rome…

We had two full days to explore all the interesting must-see sights of Rome, and it was truly unforgettable. The first day was reserved for the very reason why I wanted to travel there… to see the famous Colosseum! We walked from where we stayed towards the city centre and on the way stopped only to see some beautiful churches from inside and outside. When we reached Colosseum, I was totally swept away by the sight of it, after seeing it so many times on pictures and in movies. We had to stand in line for quite some time to buy tickets, but seeing it from inside was worth it! We spent the rest of the day exploring the nearby ancient Roman sights, like Roman Forum and Palatino hill, finally enjoying the warm sunny weather.

Panoramic photo of the famous Colosseum

Panoramic view over the ancient roman ruins from Palatino hill

Our second day in Rome was reserved for exploring the Vatican City and few other sights. We used Rome’s excellent public transport to reach the entry to St Peter’s Basilica, the richest and most spectacular church I ever seen. Although we arrived in early morning, there was already an endless queue all around the big Piazza San Pietro, all waiting to enter the basilica. My dad joyfully sacrificed himself to stand in line while the rest of us were wasting time sitting in the shade. After about an hour we finally entered this magnificent building and looked around the lavish interior in awe. I am not religious but the immensity and power of this basilica left me speechless, as of course I should be in every church.

Panoramic view of St Peter’s Basilica and the long queue

After we were done exploring the Vatican, we used the rest of our time exploring many lovely sights, like Pantheon (ancient temple remade into church), Castel Sant’Angelo, Spanish Square with Barcaccia fountain, Vittoriano at Piazza Venezia and others. While sightseeing we also took time for some yummy pasta lunch. I just love Italian food!

Pantheon, roman temple made into church

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Orvieto, the Umbrian Hill Town

The next morning we had to pack, say goodbye to Rome and start our journey back home which took two more days. Our next destination was Ferrara, but again we searched for interesting places to stop on the way and found – Orvieto, a cute sleepy town situated on a large volcanic flat hill. First we searched for a nice restaurant for lunch, and then found our way to the main attraction, the huge stripped Orvieto cathedral. While walking around the town, at some point I decided to explore the place by myself, so we agreed to meet up after some time and went our separate ways. The town is really small, but all the narrow streets looked the same. Can you guess what happened? They got lost and could not find the way to out meeting point where I was waiting for them! After a long wait I called my sister and asked where they were, but confused as she was, she did not know how to explain. So I just started walking back and after some time found my family and showed them where they missed the right turn. A happy ending to a funny incident!

Interesting outside of Orvieto Cathedral

My sister and niece enjoying the view from Orvieto

The Renaissance City of Ferrara

Our last stop before reaching home was Ferrara, a lovely town surrounded by ancient walls, situated between Bologna and Venice. After finding our hotel where we stayed for the night, we were a bit tired from the journey, so we just took some dinner at a nearby restaurant and went to bed early. The next morning we had enough time to walk around the wide streets and learn more about Ferrara’s palaces, churches and castles. We visited some of the main attractions, like the Romanesque cathedral, Ferrara city hall and St Michael’s Castle (castello di San Michele).

Beautiful city centre of Ferrara

San Michel’s Castle in Ferrara, reflecting in the surrounding water

From Ferrara we had around 4 hours of driving left to reach our home in Ljubljana, which seemed like the longest journey ever. Nevertheless, it was truly a fun filled and interesting road trip with the best company!

Tired but happy travellers!

by Nina Lozej

by Nina Lozej

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hi, I'm Nina and I live in the smallest European capital Ljubljana (Slovenia), also the Green capital of Europe. Few months ago I have finished my masters study of Ecology, during which I have used almost all my free time for travelling, improving my photography skills and meeting new people. I am trying to pursue a career in nature conservation and science, in the mean time I also write articles and do freelance photography projects.

Read more at ninalozej.com

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