DAY 4: We were up bright and early and at the train station by 6:30 so we could get our tickets for the day and catch the first train at 7 out of the Cinque Terre. Our train day was looking a little hectic but manageable. We took the train to La Spezia (just outside the Cinque Terre) where we had a 5 minute stop over and luckily our next train left from the otherside of the platform we got dropped off on. So off one train and onto the next. We again switched trains in Pisa. And then again switched trains in Florence SMN. Our last train was a “Speed” luxury train which was great since the train had restrooms on it and none of the other “local” trains did. We were in Venice St. Lucia train station roughly about 12. Which was pretty great timing we thought.

Well… we then had another boat ride on the public transport boat service to San Marco square. lol But it was fun to look out the windows( since we were quite crammed on this boat with our luggage)
Right: us on the hour long boat ride to San Marco square.

There it is!! 

Luckily I had google earthed our hotel for the night and pretty much knew exactly how to get there. So we set off across San Marco’s square and checked in at our hotel roughly around 1:30. Our hotel was like one block over from the main square so a pretty great location all in all.

We set out to explore and find some lunch (some small cheese pizzas on the cheaper side) and soon thereafter found ourselves paying the 80 euro/ boat fee to take a 30 minute gondola ride. WORTH it. It was perfect. Exactly as I’d imagined. Our gondolier took us up these quiet abandoned side canals and ended it with probably 5- 10 minutes on the grand canal in glorious sun light. Braden and I were all cozied up just taking it all in. So, so worth it.

My favorite part was being on the Grand Canal in the sun-shine. Dreams do come true!

When we got dropped off, it took us a minute to sort out how to get back to the main square. lol It’s true what they say about how easy it is to get lost in Venice. but we managed to locate at ATM so restock our euro cash (as the gondola ride had seriously depleted it) and then we went and toured the Dodge Palace which was one of the other top things I really wanted to see in the city

It’s such an immaculate palace as well so I’m glad we handed over the 16 euro/ person entry fee to see it. I think it was the most lavish thing Braden got  to see. Gold and painted ceilings with huge frames also making up the art work all around. We also passed through the Bridge of Sighs (the last walk of people going to execution from the prisons) and checked out the prisons themselves. When we got out we went and checked out the Bridge of Sighs then from the outside which was neat.

Bridge of sighs from the inside looking out.. Luckily we weren’t walking our our execution. 

Then it was about dinner time and we had seen a cool pizza by the slice place earlier and I’d say we looked for it for about 40 minutes before finally giving up lol. We just weren’t going to find it! We ended up at a pretty pricey place across from our hotel where we only got pizza (not even drinks or water as I was a cheap American tourist and just drank from the waterbottle I brought in with me haha) and this meal still ended up being the most expensive of the entire trip. I think it was like 35 or something like that? After dinner we found the only souvenir apart from magnets I would get and that was a cute little gondola with 2 “love” birds sitting in it made with Burano glass (an Island around Venice) we also just walked along the Grand canal a bit, bought my magnet, and then called it a day and returned to our hotel. We did almost get scammed by one of the “rose” guys who hand you a rose and then chase after your demanding payment for it. He kind of forced it into my hands so I was like whatever and we started walking off (I already knew about this scam before hand) and when he chased after us I just forced it back into his hands and walked off. We were approaced by 2 other rose guys throughout our walk but both of us just kept our hands in our pockets and walked by without saying anything to them. Seemed to deter them when they couldn’t force it upon us. lol

Our hotel was nice in that we had AC, ahh yes AC finally! But it was SO SOOOO NOISY. Everything seemed to be closing down when we headed to bed but apparently that wasn’t the case as we heard soo much noise from the ally our room was off of. Kind of a bummer but ah well. It was nice and cool at least.

DAY 5: We were up and out again somewhat early and skipped breakfast in favor of just trying to get out of there. It took again an hour from San Marco square to get to Roma Piazza where the bus station is at. This time however we didn’t get crammed inside so we got to enjoy more of the Grand Canal magic as we were out in the open air. From here I got a lot more photos including a great one of the Rialto Bridge.

We then caught a bus back the the airport where I had a car reservation for the remainder of our trip. After all the overly crowded buses and public transport, not to mention the wasted time sitting on platforms, we were ready to be a bit more in control. Unfortunately the rental car counter took FOREVER and we were barely leaving by 1 PM. At first we tried to just follow my printed instructions and road signs but realized that we were probably taking the slowest route possible that way so turned on the GPS to get us into our next country: SLOVENIA. Since both countries are in the European Union, they don’t really have a border control but there’s tons of gas stations where you have to stop and purchase a Vignette (or sticker for your windshield ) for 15 euros that is good for a week and basically serves as a sort of Toll system which actually seemed genius to me so when you go through “toll stations” you don’t actually stop, there’s just cameras to check for your Vignette. It was about 3 hours to Postojna which was our main attraction and next stop on our journey.

Helloooooo Cinque Terre!

This was our first experience with the automated train tickets and it took us close to 30 minutes to sort it all out but luckily we were on a train at 10:20 headed to our next destination: The Cinque Terre. Our first train change was in Pisa (sadly couldn’t really see anything from the train station) and our second train station was in Monterosso (which means we passed Vernazza and would have to back track) The train to Monterosso was SO FULL that Braden and I didn’t get seats next to each other. In fact we were in totally seperate cabins because this train was Harry Potter style and we had “cabins”. Which I thought was cool but was a little bummed I couldn’t even see Braden to point out cool stuff we passed. In Monterosso we did the quick change and were then in Vernazza, our home for the next 2 nights.

We quickly discovered just how BUSY these little towns were going to be. We barely moved along at a shuffle with our luggage in the crowd until I spotted the turn off for our airBNb. This it was only like… 10 minutes up stairs and hills till we were in front of our lovely little shack with a KILLER view of Vernazza. We had a large private terrace which certainly made up for the tiny space in the shack and the even more noticeable lack of AC. My first order of business therefore was a COLD shower to wash the sweat from climbing to the place off. We made it here roughly around 1 again. Then we had lunch at the restaurant just below us (also with amazing views) Braden had steak and I got Pesto lasange (which sounded like a match made in heaven for me since I love both those things but not sure if it was the heat or what but lost my appetite trying to eat it) Then it was down to the pebble beach to enjoy a swim during the heat of the day. I explored a really cool cave/ tunnel where water ran under the town and out into the ocean. I then also found out that Braden is not much of an Ocean swimmer… lol He didn’t really want to swim and I really didn’t want to stand on rocks so needless to say we didn’t stay all that long. lol but I did have a lovely solo swim and we hung out in the shallower area together for a bit. Then it was a steep climb back to our shack to shower and change.

A little after 5 we decided to get a little of our hiking out of the way and do the footpath from Vernazza to Monterosso. And bonus: we found out that the trail entry fees close after 5 so we didn’t even have to pay the 15 euros /person just to hike. Woohoo! This was quite the steep climb and with the unfamiliar humidity, I was sweating QUITE a lot. Luckily I still had my bathing suit on so I pretty much hiked in that. The views of Vernazza were amazing and overall the coast was really cool. And BONUS there were some (wild?) cats that had little shelters on this part of the trail and signs that request hikers to pet them and feed them(in the morning) so that was new for me. I took some photos but otherwise left the kitties alone to their naps.

Stairs…. so many stairs. 

The trail is marked by these fun little stripes along the way
to keep you on the right track. Apart from when you entered
the towns… it would be pretty hard to get lost hiking the 
coastal routes. 
Wild? Kitties on the trail
The view back toward Vernazza… see it? This was quite the hike!
And the view looking onto Monterosso… Almost there! 

The hike took us about 1.5 hours (.5 hours less than the tourist info suggests) and is about 3 Km/ 2 miles. We didn’t really see too many people hiking which was nice. In Monterosso, we grabbed Braden his souvenir of the trip: some red swimming trunks (since he forgot his! lol somehow…)

Couldn’t help taking a few of these “girlfriend” shots as I like to refer to them. 
More to come… lol 

Here you can see all the towns, Vernazza, Corniglia up on the hill,
Manarola next over, and Riomagiorre you can see bits of it on the 
other side of the hill from Manarola. 
View from the train station at Riomaggiore

Then the interesting train ride: we found the train station and bought our 4 euro /person tickets and got on the platform we THOUGHT we were supposed to be on. Then someone told us there was change. oh? so we rushed and changed platforms and found ourselves on a train headed to Riomaggiore… again totally bypassing Vernazza. Great so we got off there and waited 15 minutes before catching the train in the other direction to our stop. Unfortunately this got us back to Vernazza at 8:30 after a lot of the places had closed and we really wanted to grab dinner
 to eat and watch the sunset from our terrace.

We ended up with some cold pasta salad from this lunch box place. (not that it was all that bad… just wasn’t the meal I was quite looking for) The sunset however was great and lounging on our terrace really capped off a fantastic day. Too bad we had a hot night awaiting us. Luckily we had a fan at least to keep us somewhat cooler during the night.

Day 3: We got up, made some instant coffee to enjoy on our terrace( since this was probably the best part of the Cinque terre for us that terrace is going to get mentioned A LOT) and were ready to hike by like 8:30. This time we were already quite a bit up the trail and just steps from the pay booth to hike to Corniglia. We bought our day passes and were 10 minutes up the trail when the heavens opened up and it down poured on us. So we turned around to wait out the rain in our shack. Which turned out to be somewhat neat since we had total privacy up there we just left the door open and watched the rain for an our. About 10 it had sort of subsided so we headed out to hike again. There were still some angry clouds about but overall I think it kept some of the crowds away and definitely some of the heat. WIN!

The trail passes A LOT of Olive Groves.

Getting close to Corniglia!! 

The hike to Corniglia is the longest of the coastal route at about 4Km or 2.5 miles but wasn’t as much elevation gain as the trail to Monterosso. Even still there were a few stairs and it was quite humid and warm. We didn’t see a soul until we were close to Corniglia and we saw some people hiking in the opposite direction. This is the only town that is set up more in the hills than on the water so we didn’t plan on staying long but we did need some lunch. We had some FANTASTIC ham sandwiches. They wer HUGE first of all on greasy delicious Foccacia bread with ham, mozzerella, and “salad”. My kind of sandwich. No mayo in site. We ate that on a bench overlooking the town and water and that was quite enjoyable. We also picked up some yummy croissants and apples as snacks later on but soon found out that we had hiked all we could of the coastal path and would have to take the trains for the remainder of our journey. DARN! Basically we got to do the longest and hardest of the hikes. lol

Yummy (HUGE) Ham and mozzarella on Foccaccia bread sandwich. The best sandwich of the whole dang trip.

Corniglia Train station: you can see Manarola from here! So wish we could’ve hiked ! 

So we descended the crazy SWITCHBACK stairs to Corniglia’s train station and headed to Manarola.

So.. soo many stairs.

Here we ditched the crowds at the marina and main square and headed up the hill. We soon saw what was likely part of the coastal path but which looked open so we climbed up to get a better view of the town. SO WORTH IT. The view of Manarola is only second to Vernazza I think. Such a cool town and it was from up there on another bench we enjoyed our apples.

Some interesting things off the trail…. 

Looking back toward Corniglia.
Manarola’s lovely cemetery. 

We tried to see if the Via Del Amore was open (the .5 mile paved trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola) but alas.. it was not. Still got a cool shot of Manarola though with it’s train station to the right.

Riomaggiore: Now this town was interesting. After again walking up a hill hoping for similar results as the last hike, we soon realized we weren’t even in the “main” part of town. Oh no we’d need to go through a tunnel where we were then spit out into quite the crowd of people. So we pretty much went to the Marina, surveyed our swimming options which didn’t seem like that many, took some photos, and headed back to the train.

If we hadn’t recently had lunch I would’ve been alll over this seafood shack.
They even had another sign that said “How can I resist you..” Indeed…. 

We thought, lets go back to Monterosso where they had big sandy beaches. So we hopped on the train back to Monterosso where we got out into an ever larger mass of people. Oh my goodness words can’t even describe the crowds in the little tiny village. And we soon discovered that the entire beach is covered in beach chairs that cost 20 euros per PERSON for 2 hours. uh, no way we have a free pebble beach in Vernazza thanks very much. so again we were back on the train to our “home” town. Only this train was different. Again they switch the platform on us and we rushed over to get on this old, ancient NO AC train where we sat… and we sat for at least 20 minutes while they crammed more and more people onto it. We kept wondering when enough was enough but people kept getting on until  we again hugging strangers in an AC absent stuffy compartment. Great. But then we were back in Vernazza, ducking onto the stairway to Heaven/ shack where I could take the 2nd of cold showers for the day. We looked down on the beach which was full of people but no one was in the water.. interesting. The waves did look a bit strong so since it looked like swimming was out, we opted for a relaxing afternoon on you guessed it, our TERRACE. lol We sunbathed and read our books, relaxed, and I probably took at least 1 more cold shower to cool off.

For dinner we got all cleaned up and headed down to town. We grabbed a pizza from a shop (which was a delicious pesto, tomato, mozzerela pizza for only 7.50!) some sprite and fanta from the grocery shop and headed to the pebble beach. We sat and picnicked while watching some pretty wild waves crash on the boulders. That was aweomse.

When we finished our pizza, we headed over to the marina where some people were swimming in the crazy waves so we sat and watched that for a while. Then we spotted the path/ stairs up to the fort/ castle of Vernazza and thought, why the heck not. There were only a few people up there with us and the views with the sunset were great!

Vernazza is the only little town to have a… Castle? We had a lot of fun roaming around the emptied grounds taking pictures. It was a 4 euros (for the greater good of providing first aid supposedly and not for profit at entry) well spent.

If you look on the right side of this photo you can see some white umbellas, our little shack was directly above these (if you know where to look, you can kind of see it too on the hillside)
Told ya you were going to see more of these.. haha

I really loved all the little “bridges” connecting buildings over these narrow alleyways. If you ever visit the Cinque Terre, make sure to get off the beaten paths in each village and discover these fun, colorful streets.

We capped our day off with some gelato (my 2nd bit what??? I think I got some coffee and sweet cream flavors this time. delicious) and then returned to our… Terrace to watch the remaining sunset on Day 3.

One of the many amazing views of Vernazza we enjoyed while we sweated on our climb back to the shack every day
The AHMazing sunset we had all to ourselves each night. Going without AC was well worth it. 

A few shots of our little “shack” Otherwise known as.. the Love shack. haha It was a small bedroom with a wardrobe and a very tiny bathroom, but what more could we need? We spent every minute outside on the terraces!

Left: our gate we could lock so no one would come up and disturb us. The height from the gate and path also added privacy since one terrace had stone walls. But we also had the smaller gated terrace to the left with a table and chairs. It had better views 🙂

Day 4: Up at 6 again to be at the train station by 7. Goodbye little shack. We’ll miss you!

A few photos from the water camera that got out of order… this cool water tunnel went under the village  and let out on the pebble beach we swam at.

I may have had to walk up it a ways to explore. 
Another one! This time leading my man up the street to the stairs for our climb
A sign pointing the way to our little shack! haha Well Corniglia anyways. But we were up there. 

Ok, let’s get started. LOTS to catch up on and I’ll start with probably the thing most people want to hear about.. OUR HONEYMOON!!!

We were off to visit 3 countries in 2 weeks: Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. We got decent priced tickets flying with Air Canada from SLC to Toronto, and then onto Venice.

Day 1 started off with 1 BRIGHT and early morning where my cousin Jordan was so sweet to get us to the airport. We packed light in these carry ons (smart as we more than discovered later)
After some 20 hours of travel we arrived in Venice at 7:30 AM (and no we sadly didn’t get sleep on the flight over). We then took a bus to the Venice Mestre Train station (basically the mainland trainbstation) and from there we caught a train to just outside Florence, where we then caught a connecting train to the Florence Santa Maria Novella (SMN) Train station. All in all this journey took close to 5 hours to make and we got into the main Florence station right around 12:30.

After a quick walk (about 10 minutes) to basically the Duomo Piazza we met up with our AirBnb host at 1 and were let into our apartment. At this point we had already been awake for about 24 hours sooo Braden promptly took a nap and I headed out to explore.
To the right: the lovely marble flooring for the apartment building we were staying in.

To the left: The apartment was practically ON the Piazza Duomo. I mean this is the view from the front doorstep.. it’s RIGHT there!

Me, trying to glam up just a smidge so I didn’t look as tired. (Didn’t feel all that tired but by the time we made it to Florence I was looking quite haggard… ) in front of our front door.

So basically the Duomo is my favorite building ever!! It’s just sooo massive and detailed, making it one of the most stunning buildings ever.
First thing on my list was to sort out our “activities.” I knew I wanted to climb the Domb AND the Campanille Bell Tower… but where to buy tickets? and did we really need to stand in that mile long line to do it? I quickly found the Duomo Museum where they sell a combined ticket to all the main attractions for 15 euro a person. Deal. Tickets bought and time slot for the tower reserved. Unfortunately there weren’t any reservations left for the dome climb until like 6 PM the next day (when we would already be gone) so line it was going to have to be. Since I didn’t think Braden would care all that much I decided to just use the ticket and explore the museum without him. All in all there were some cool Catholic relics and information on the architecture of the dome. I pretty much just walked around, looked at all the things, and decided it was GELATO time. So I bought myself my first gelato of the trip (I think it was like strachiatella and strawberry) and sat myself down to take in the splendor of the most magnificent building I’ve ever laid my eyes on.

Then I still had about an 1.5 until Braden said I could return to wake him up (agreed on 4-4:30) so I wandered the area round about the Dome  finding a market for water ( and sadly the only large bag of chocolate croissants I would see on the whole trip and I passed them up! ughh!) and also somehow was drawn to these public park areas where there were loads of dogs! lol I felt like I had found the motherload of dog parks! There were cool statues in the center of both but otherwise… they were just parks. Soo I then returned to the apartment to wake Braden up and use the (free) restroom.

Most of the parks had these statues at the center of them.

We were then off to climb the tower! dun dun dun… We skipped the line due to my earlier reservationing skills. Go me. and soon learned that we were really in for a treat! and by treat I mean a stale, stuffy, stinky climb up a spiral staircase where we got to hug loads of strangers as we went up and they were going down. Man what an experience. There were a couple spots where you could get out of the stairs, check out the view, and decide if you wanted to continue your stairscapade or turn around. We, of course, continued to the top.

The MAIN reason I wanted to do this attraction was for the outstanding view of the DOME! We didn’t stick around for long though because the long climb to the top had definitely brought out our appetite… So we started the long, sweaty, stranger hugging descent back down which surprisingly took a lot less time. (Prob since they were closing and not really letting people in past the last group. WooHOO!)

For dinner we just wanted something fast and easy so we settled on this little cafe in the Duomo square where we got cheese pizza and coke and enjoyed both with a splendid view of the Duomo. After that we headed on a quick walk (too look for the market with the chocolate croissants) but alas were unable to locate said market and everything seemed to be closing down, so we turned in for the night roughly around 8:30. Which was fine cause let’s face it, after 32 hours awake I was ready to turn in. So ended Day 1.

Here’s some snapshots of our apartment: The small hide-away kitchen complete with mini fridge, stove top, sink, and multiple cooking utensils should we have needed them. HA!

And Below: it was basically a studio apartment with a bathroom off the entry way, the hideaway kitchen, and a sofa-bed. Surprisingly the bed wasn’t horribly uncomfortable. The AC and wifi were the major points and LOCATION. You could open that whole window and peep out to get a glimpse so the duomo right there!

DAY 2: We got up bright and early to be out in line to climb the dome at 7:30. We were probably the 12th group in line which was loads better than the crowds we’d seen the day before and only had to wait an hour for the place to open at 8:30. Plus we had some breakfast while we stood in line so really not all that bad. By 8 the line had wound around the other side of the building to where I couldn’t really see it any more. GET THERE by 7:30. I’m serious that line grows like nothing else. Now the climb up was great cause we were one of the first groups up so luckily no battling the sweaty strangers on our climb this time. But it was A LOT of stairs again.

One of the coolest parts this time wasn’t actually the view of the city but the view of the inside of the ceiling. The painting was INCREDIBLE and it was soo cool being up that high inside the building. Then you practically climb up the top of the dome shape inside before emerging out on top. Also with this climb most of the ascent and descent are in 2 different stair cases so there’s only a few moments (which are very VERY narrow) where you have to make love to the people going in the other direction in order to pass.

Some sketchy hallway near the top….

Below: the same tower had climbed the day before.

Climbing down the dome….

With about 5 minutes or so at the top, we got out at the bottom roughly around 9:15 and went straight back to the apartment to pick up our things and head to the train station.

Lastly below: a glimpse down at the first terrace we stopped on the way up at to view the ceiling. So long Florence!