Leaving Denmark for Rome was a bit of a shock to the system but oddly enough we felt at home. We have after all spent months of our trip in Italy. We got a taxi out to our apartment to meet my family there to find that they were all out and about exploring so Mark and I walked up to a restaurant, ordered a pizza and ate. After finishing our food we went to wait outside the apartment as we didn’t have a key. I sat down to read while Mark played his guitar and after an hour and a half my family showed up. Months ago I would have said it was going to be emotional but before I saw there I knew it wasn’t going to be. I speak to them quite often and if it’s not on FaceTime then it’s via emails or messages – they also keep track of what we are doing via our blog and Instagram. It was nice seeing them all and it’s funny how even after being away for 8 months, our relationships just didn’t change.
The next morning Mark and I woke up early to go to the Trevi Fountain and before we knew it almost everyone was up and walking out the door with us.
It was funny watching them over the next few days grapple with their jet lag. I always find that you think you’re doing fine and then it just hits you like a tonne of bricks, and slowly, one by one, without them really noticing that it was happening they all experienced their jet lag. The next 2 days in Rome Mark and I were getting used to the idea of travelling with 9 other people and then once we thought we had the hang of it we got a flight to Bratislava. One of the main reasons for my family’s trip was to meet relatives and Bratislava was where my mum and two aunties were to meet their father’s family. My grandfather had one younger brother who married and had a daughter. My grandfather died many years ago and as a result my mum and aunties have minimal memories of him so meeting direct relatives of his was a huge thing for them all. It was an emotional 3 days for them all and I know memories were created that will last a lifetime. It was an teary goodbye for everyone but everyone was so happy to have had the opportunity to meet.
We left on the train for Prague early afternoon and it was just like a circus rolling into town. We got to Bratislava station early just so we could take our time and I’m so glad we did. Once everyone was settled the 4 hour train trip went pretty quickly and with 30 minutes to go the Griswolds aka my family, starting bringing all of their luggage down and preparing themselves to disembark. We arrived to a rainy and cold Prague and once we got to their apartment everyone was happy. The apartment was beautiful but didn’t have room for Mark and I so while everyone went out to explore Mark and I jumped online to find somewhere to stay. A couple of hours later we had checked into our own place and met up back at their apartment. This was pretty much the pattern for the next 2 days. Mark and I would meet up with everyone at some point in the day and we would hang out for a while. We didn’t have a great experience when we were in Prague earlier in the year and our visit there this time was a bit non eventful except for the fact I got my hair cut again. This time it’s actually all gone!
We left Prague late in the afternoon and caught 2 flights to Ancona, Italy where we were to meet my dad’s relatives. Mark and I had spent 3 weeks with them so seeing them again was quite easy for us but it was emotional for my Dad to see his aunty and uncle who he hadn’t seen for 30 years. We spent 5 days in Ancona, visiting relatives and seeing some sites when we could. The main event the family put on for us was a huge family reunion where more that 70 people came to see ‘the family from Australia’. It was an amazing night and we were so grateful to be able to meet so many people who we were related to in some way. I think it was more amazing for my Dad as he was able to speak to everyone with the need of a translator like the rest of us. Towards the end of the night Mark managed to get a group photo of everyone which was absolutely amazing.
We left Ancona with bags full of food curtesy of my Dad’s family. The quick train ride to Venice was really easy and when we arrived Mark and I pointed my family in the direction of their water bus while we walked in the opposite direction towards ours. After google maps sent us to a completely different address we eventually found our way to our apartment and settled in. I had always wanted to go to Venice but being there in the windy, cold weather didn’t really match what I had imagined so I promised myself I would be back one day in summer and then was able to continue on enjoying our short time there. We spent a day checking out the Burano and Murano islands. While we were all standing around waiting for Mark and James to relax after their ‘friendly’ wrestling match I noticed something fall on Mark’s head and then when I looked up I saw a huge seagull had just flown over us, and then quickly putting 2 and 2 together I realised that Mark had been shat on. The laughter and commotion that followed was hilarious and once I had cleaned all of the bird shit from Mark’s hair we were ready to go get some drinks! On our last day we took a gondola ride because you can’t go to Venice without getting one and it was the perfect end to our trip to Venice.
We were staying in a beautiful Tuscan Villa that took hours to get to by the time we left Venice, got the train and then drove to the countryside. It was such an amazing house and we spent the week there cooking, drinking and simply relaxing. We woke up early one day during our stay there and drove out to Pisa. It was a long drive for a relatively short visit but it was a great experience, especially once we got everyone involved in taking the classic tourist shot. We found that, at the right angle, the photos looked great!
After our short visit to Pisa we drove back to our Villa, stopping off to have lunch at the amazing Antinori Winery. The architecture, gardens and vineyards there were so spectacular that after lunch we spent an hour walking around admiring everything.
We left Tuscany for Sorrento, just south of Naples. Arriving at Napoli Centrale station was a stark contrast to where we had been further north. There is a local train that can take you straight from Napoli Centrale to Sorrento station and when I asked everyone they were all happy to get the local train. So as soon as we arrived we headed for the local train and were engulfed by a sea of people. It was quite an adventure just getting through the crowds and down to the platform but we had just missed the train so had a 20 minute wait before the next one. While everyone was slightly anxious (I had told them all to be vigilant with their belongings as Naples was famous for it’s pickpockets) and waiting for the train, the crowds around us started to grow and before we knew it the platform was packed. Our train was approaching so we all pushed forward and my aunty had told Chris to go first because she didn’t want to hold him up. As soon as the train arrived though she panicked, ran, tripped and fell, blocking the pathway onto the train. Once somebody (maybe my uncle?) helped her up and we were all on board the train like sardines we were in tears of laughter. (Disclaimer:We checked she was ok and once we knew she was we were free to laugh.) And so began our last week together we spent it in Sorrento which is such a picturesque holiday town that it was the perfect way to end my family’s holiday. On the sunniest day there we got the ferry across to Capri where we hired a private boat to take us on a tour around the island and just like so many other parts of Italy it was amazing. It was also my mum’s birthday while there so we hired Fiat 500s and drove the Amalfi Coast for the day. Mark booked us lunch at a restaurant high above Positano and the view and food there was unsurpassable. I don’t think it’s a birthday my mum is likely to forget any time soon! The last 2 days in Sorrento Mark and I had some planning to do for the next part of our trip so everyone else went off to Naples and Pompeii and on our last night in Sorrento we ended it with a family dinner with possibly one too many bottles of wine.
We took yet another train back to Rome and once there we packed our bags and sorted everything out. I had done quite a lot of shopping in the past month so bought another suitcase to send home with them all. At one point it looked like everyone was carrying some of my shopping! The next day we were up super early to say goodbye to them all. It was an emotional goodbye for me because every other time I’ve said goodbye it was always goodbye until a certain date, this time the date is unknown so it’s goodbye until we see each other again. Once we saw them off Mark and I walked to the Colosseum, bought ourselves some breakfast and sat and ate while the sun rose. It was the perfect end to our time in Europe. We arrived in Rome for the first time in the middle of April and now here we are, end of October finally saying goodbye to Europe.
Our time spent in Europe was a dream come true and when I look back I’m constantly trying to remember things that have already begun to slip my mind. I think it will be time soon to go back and start reading my blog posts. Europe is such an amazing place and Italy truly began to feel like a second home to us. I can’t wait to come back here again but for now it’s time to move on to new places and it feels like another adventure is just about to start. First stop – Iceland!
Love, a soon to be very cold, B