Towards the end of the 2017 summer, the Kernes family took a vacation around Europe. Part 1 takes place in Florence and Rome Italy.
Sunday, August 27
Yesterday, after 20 hours of monotonous travel, the entire Kernes family arrived in Florence, Italy. A glorious and full night of sleep helped erode a sizable amount of jet-lag. Breakfast was a buffet with far too many croissants at the hotel, then it was off to see the Galleria dell'Accademia di Firenze. Of course, the goal was to see "David". It looked better than the slides from art history class. A bonus was a tapestry made in the 14th century which was easily over six feet long. The level of detail was intense and hard to comprehend. On the way out of the museum, I spied a few electrical boxes with some clever street art. 'Scubadore Dali' was my favorite. Lunch was a ham and Fontina panini with a glass of red just a few blocks away from the Galleria. After, we took an electric bike tour of Florence. The sun was setting while we were effortlessly propelled up the hilly streets. Our tour ended with an aperitivo at La Prosciutteria; creamy peppered-Gorgonzola and kalamata tapenade served on fluffy, fresh bread. More red wine. Satisfied, Mom and Dad bid us goodnight and hailed a cab. Adam and I decided to explore and find more food. After walking around for a few hours, we found ourselves across the street from our hotel. A small carnival which had live music, old couples dancing, and cheap food drew us in.
Monday, August 28
Our tour of Il Duomo di Firenze, or those looking for more of a mouthful, Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, was first on the day's agenda. Had a quick shower and hotel buffet before our 9AM tour time. Having walked around for a whole day yesterday it wasn't any secret where we were headed. We arrived, met our guide, received our earpieces, and started our three-hour walking tour of the Duomo. For 445 years, this was the largest dome in the world, and today, it is still the largest masonry dome. It was hard to comprehend a project of this magnitude during the age in which it was constructed. After the tour, we had an opportunity to climb to the top. Adam and I were the last two people for the day—we narrowly made it past the velvet rope! From the top was a panoramic view of Florence as well as the Basilica di Santa Croce. We climbed down. By then it was well into the hottest part of the day. Coffee gelato helped to cool us down. Lunch was a sandwich place, I' Girone De' Ghiotti, who's infamous line we spotted wrapping around the block yesterday. It was well worth the wait. Adam and I split a 5 euro bottle of wine and we all walked back to the hotel to power nap. Three-course dinner at a vineyard complete with wine pairings and ample mosquitoes. That was the only complaint we struggled to find.
Tuesday, August 29
This was a travel day.
Wednesday, August 30
Upon waking, it was easy to tell it was going to be a hot day. Breakfast options were slim and expensive so the family decided to chance it and head out early. Today's tour was of the Colosseum; we banked on finding street vendors around the area. Our patience was rewarded with a three euro caprese-style panini. The tour was extremely thorough and went on a little longer than expected. We were left tuckered out having walked around in the 95 degree sun all morning. Everyone decided it was a good time to go back to the hotel for a siesta. Dinner was a planned event that was unfortunately canceled an hour before we were supposed to go. Dad scrambled and did some intense Google searching. We ended up at Osteria 44 which turned out to be my favorite dining experience of the vacation so far. Sergio, our waiter, made the whole night even better with his dry wit and excellent recommendations. We all shared several dishes. Ravioli with shrimp and asparagus, as well as a classic carbonara were our entrees. Osso buco with roasted potatoes and green beans, and sea bass with some sort of spicy creamed spinach were our secondi . Everything was an 11/10. As a family, we wined, dined, and laughed for the whole two hours—a rarity. Dad didn't stop there. It just so happened the highest rated gelateria was a small detour on our walk home. I went with my usual selection of coffee.
Thursday, August 31
Today we had a tour of the Vatican City State. We decided to play on yesterday's luck and leave early in search of breakfast. Once again, we scored and found a quaint cafe. I had a smoked salmon sandwich with arugula and tomato, crust neatly removed, and a cappuccino. The coffee was a transformative experience; more so than coffee usually is. We finished and met up with our tour group outside the city walls. “Customs” was pretty easy. We were through the line in minutes. Unfortunately, we also walked through the expansive museums far too quickly. There was easily enough art to look at for several weeks. Our tour guide seemed to know this as well and tried to cram in as much as possible. The size and grandeur was hard to process. Gold, frescoes, multi-colored marble patterns, statues, every square inch was adorned and bespoke with a level of ostentation I didn't even know was possible. And then we went to Saint Peter's Basilica. For a second, I forgot how hot and humid it had been. The Sistine Chapel was an absolute zoo. Hundreds of people, ourselves included, had their necks cranked upward at the magnificent ceiling. My neck was sore. Our tour ended and we decided to wait out the hottest part of the day in our hotel rooms. At 3PM, we were scheduled for a more relaxing golf cart tour of Rome. We puttered past the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, and the Parthenon. We were dropped off at Saltimbocca for dinner. Meal highlight was a smoked provola and speck pizza. And you best believe we stopped for gelato on our way home.