With the primary intention to tick some goals off the bucket list, I could not have been more thrilled when I found out that our annual 12 day family holiday would be taking place in Italy – one of my favourite European countries. Two holidays in one was definitely something I will remember forever, for what a treat it was to visit the historical capital city of Rome, as well as the more remote and localised paradise of sunny Sicily. The house we stayed in was not far from the small town of Castellammore del Golfo- the home of the Mafia.
After our three hour flight, we arrived in the overwhelming heat of the Roman sun and headed straight to the luxurious hotel called ‘The Building’. With only a few minutes to settle in, we jumped straight into our first activity of the holiday, a tour bus ride around the entire city. Despite the tiredness of a 5am start, we were quickly enchanted by the beauty that surrounded us, and the wonders around every corner. We saw everything from the training ground for the gladiators by the Colosseum, to the ancient churches and the eye-catching fountains located at the centre of every square. Stopping off at the Trevi Fountain was the icing on the cake.
“I had to have pasta and gelato because after all, it is Italy”
After hearing such great things about it, it was a sight that did not disappoint. Unfortunately, there were perhaps just too many tourists swarming over its walls, but nothing could pull my eyes away from the detail of its sculptures, and the presence it had in the square it dominated. The day ended with a dinner of carbonara and mint gelato on the cobblestones outside a local restaurant with a stunning view of the Colosseum adjacent to our table. I had to have pasta and gelato because after all, it is Italy.
The next day saw us preparing to go on our tour of the Colosseum, which I learnt was reconstructed in 275 BC. Starting from the cells underneath the arena floor and ending at the top tier, we had the whole experience – one that I had underestimated before I visited.
We then moved on to tour the Forum, somewhere I could have stayed for the whole day. The pillars were eye catching, as was the stunning view of the gardens from the Palatine Hill. We decided to finish our day sightseeing at the Spanish Steps. Eating a proper Italian pizza and listening to opera singers performing in the square made it an atmospheric evening to remember.
Our final day was probably the busiest, packing the self-guided tour of St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican all in one. Learning about the artist behind the glorious paint work, Michaelangelo, was fascinating and I was stunned to learn that it took him four years to complete the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – a famous wonder – at thirty-three years of age. St Peter’s was our destination for the afternoon; with so much to look at and to learn about it was hard to take it all in. Words cannot describe just how beautiful it was – a day in these two locations would have been every art historian’s dream!
With our final day being dedicated to touring the local shops around the Via del Corso, visiting the Pantheon as well as the eye catching Piazza Navona, it was the perfect way to end our time in Rome. One place I would recommend to eat would be the restaurant ‘Vini e Cucina Blasi’, located on the street of Via di Torre Argentina, a place where you will have the best plate of pasta you could ask for. Try the sage and butter pasta and you will not be disappointed. The customer service is excellent and you truly get an authentic Italian experience with its locals.
I would definitely visit Rome again, and next time, I would explore each location a day at a time.
Whilst our experience in Sicily was largely different to our Roman one, it was a great way to relax from all of the tours and business of our previous days. The majority of our experience was spent by the pool, soaking up the thirty-four degree sun and having some time to ourselves – the real deal of a holiday get away.
I could not have asked for a more tranquil surrounding – with the mountains lemon and olive trees all around our stone brick house, it did not take long to settle in. For breakfast the next day, we ventured out to the local bakery where I enjoyed seeing the owner pump in sauces to the plain fresh croissants from chocolate and berry to custard and marmalade.
I got to spend the first two days reading by the pool and amusing myself until the time came around for dinner, where we had our first night out in the city. Steak by the sea in a local portside restaurant on our third night, surrounded by locals in the warm candle light was unforgettable.
The next day we were off to see the temples at Segesta, hidden away among the mountains. The Doric Temple, one of the best preserved of all the Greek sites in the Mediterranean, took me back to our days in Rome. The amphitheatre was a similarly mesmerising sight, located high up in the mountains that viewed across the valley floor. With locals taking the opportunity to re-enact Greek tragedy plays, as well as opera singers giving everyone a free performance we had a great time.
Sea kayaking was the final activity we enjoyed, as the rest of our trip consisted of general mooching around and taking in the sights of our local town. The road side restaurant ‘Quetzal’ was the best night there, with the best pizza, again on a table looking out to sea. Of course it was quiet with our seven pm arrival contrasting to the Italians who arrived at ten pm. Our final night saw us visiting the next town nearby, ‘Scopello’, a charming hill top town with spectacular views across the Mediterranean, where parts of Ocean’s 12 was filmed. There were great local markets and restaurants. It was the place we revisited the next day for lunch at ‘Natuna’ – supposedly Tom Cruise’s favourite restaurant.
“Of course the flight was delayed by 4 hours”
We spent our final day exploring the towns for the last time before we had our nine pm flight home. Of course the flight was delayed by 4 hours, however, that could not dampen our memory of the amazing near two weeks we had in Italy.
I look forward to my next trip with the hope of seeing Mount Etna if I am fortunate enough to return to Sicily. I know that I will definitely be seeing Rome again.
Image credits: Olivia Morel
Check out Olivia’s top tips for travel in Italy, published here later in the week!