Italy is a place many people dream of travelling to. It conjures a lot of magical images: romantic gondola rides, closing your eyes and making a wish as you throw a coin into the crystal waters of the Trevi fountain, taking tacky photos at the tower of Pisa, consuming mountains of pasta as the waiter entertains you with his Opera singing.
All of these things and more came true for us when we hoped on a bus and toured from Rome to Venice. But this time, there were three! Our beautiful friend Shark surprised us by booking a secret trip and revealing herself in the lobby of our hotel.
It's fair to say we ate our way around Italy. We didn't hold back - if we wanted to sample some gelato we did, if we wanted to have bread before our main we did, if we wanted to have dessert after that we did. But I dare you to turn your nose up at Italy's finest cuisine. The Italians pride themselves on making simple dishes that are bursting with flavour, and once the wafting smell hits you it's impossible to resist.
We did so many amazing things in Italy that it would take forever to explain them all in detail. I think the photos say more than words can, but even they are nothing compared to the real thing.
- A guided tour of Pompeii, walking through the ruins and seeing how they used to live and even how they died thanks to the preserved remains of some the victims of the once great city.
- Driving along the coast of Sorrento, and then hitting the streets to try the local lemoncello.
- Walking through Capri, stopping for cappuccinos and gelato overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
- Wine-tasting at a vineyard and olive farm in the Chianti region.
- Singing karaoke in Florence one night, then waking up the next morning and touring the amazing city - seeing the most beautiful church I've ever seen - the Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Fiore and the statue of David at Galleria dell'Accademia.
- Dined on a traditional roast dinner in the Tuscan hills.
- Took trashy tourist photos at the leaning tower of Pisa.
- Explored two tiny townships on the Cinque Terra - Monterosso and Vernazza.
- Window shopped our way through the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II in Milano - Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior - Oh my!
- Admired the Milan Cathedral and got caught in a full-on riot on the way back to the bus.
- Took a photo with Juliet in front of her famous balcony in Verona.
- Bought Venetian masks, drank Bellini on our gondola ride and wondered around St Mark's Square in Venice.
- Toured Rome at night - climbing the Spanish Steps, throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain and seeing some beautiful churches, including the Pantheon.
- Visited the Colosseum and Roman Forum, before being left behind by the bus and making our own way to Vatican City.
We also met some amazing people, some of which we have kept in touch with. This is my last travel blog, which makes me a little sad, but also makes me want to do it all over again.