Thanksgiving Week: Rome & Florence


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It was really fun having my mom fly in a stay with me over Thanksgiving week.  I got to show her all around Rome and then we took a little trip up to Florence.

Straight off the plane (after a train ride, a bus ride, and dropping off her suitcase), we were off to grab some coffees and see the town.  These coffees are called marocchinos – to make them they put fudge in the bottom of the glass, pour espresso over and then top with milk foam and cocoa.. simply delicious.


We took the elevator up to the top of the Vittorio Emanuele Monument (pictured behind us) so we could get a better look at Rome.


I didn’t realize how well I knew this city until we were up there and I was pointing out all the famous sites (and not so famous ones)..

We then climbed up a lot (I mean a lot) of stairs up to see Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli (Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven).  The exterior doesn’t look like much, but the interior was beautiful, complete with a gold ceiling and dozens of glass chandeliers.

When it turned dark, we walked over to the Trevi Fountain, which I believe best viewed at night.


As a class, we took a little architecture field trip to see Renzo Piano’s Parco della Musica and Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI Museum, and mom came along.

The Parco della Musica houses three music halls, each in these beetle-like structures.





The connections under the beetle shell are pretty nice.  I can’t say I love the buildings, but I can appreciate them from an architectural perspective.. haha.

MAXXI, or National Museum of Art in the 21st Century, was design by Zaha Hadid and took 10 years to construct, only opening in 2010.



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I’m not sure how much mom enjoying being an architecture student for a day, but I enjoyed having her tag along 🙂

On Wednesday, I took mom to see the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.  I was happy to go back when there was much nicer weather.. it was rainy when I went.



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The Colosseum will never get less-impressive.

On Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day), we had an early-morning tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s.


It also happened to be the day that they were going to set up the Christmas tree.

The Vatican Museum was really amazing.  I wish we had had more time to look at everything, but we would had been there all day..

And I can’t get enough of these tiled floors!!


We also spent some time in the Sistine Chapel to take in Michelangelo’s masterpiece ceiling, but unfortunately, no photos are allowed.

We went into St. Peter’s again. I just can’t get past how large this building is.. it’s unreal.

Right after our tour of the Vatican, we hopped on a 2-hour train north to Florence for a few days.

Florence (Firenze in Italian) is the capital of Tuscany, a region in central Italy.  In the Middle Ages, it was the the center of European trade, which made it an excellent location for the birth of the Renaissance.  The powerful Medici family from Florence were huge patrons of the arts, which brought a lot of big Renaissance artists to the city, including Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Botticelli.  It is still one of the wealthiest cities in Italy and has been called one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

We were greeted from the train station with Christmas Lights!  Christmas season is officially upon us!



Architecturally, Florence is known for its Duomo (“cathedral”) which is home to the largest brick masonry dome in the world, designed by Brunelleschi.


You can actually climb stairs up within the dome, which we wanted to do, but the tickets were sold out.. Bummer. But we did get to go into the church.


The interior is relatively plain except for the beautifully painted dome.


After leaving the church, we ventured down to Piazza della Signoria where Palazzo Vecchio is located, as well as the Neptune Fountain and the original location of Michaelangelo’s David (the original is now in another museum in Florence).



We’re feeling the same way, Mr. Lion, about David’s lack of clothing.. haha

The Palazzo Vecchio (“old palace” in Italian) is now the town hall of Florence.  It changed names many times, but was given the name of Palazzo Vecchio when the Medici family moved to another palace across the river.

The palace has an excellent art collection, and so we bought tickets to the museum.


We first toured some Roman amphitheater ruins that they have recently found underneath the palace.  It figures.. I think it would be a bigger surprise NOT to find ruins while digging anywhere in Italy, haha!

Photos from the courtyard (#1 in above diagram)



This is the Great Hall (#9)


Italy knows how to decorate their ceilings.. they need to provide chaise lounges so you can look up and admire them without falling down!






After touring all the rooms, we climbed up the tour to see a better view of the city and the Duomo!



I spy David from a hole in the floor up above.


And there’s the Duomo.. So beautiful.


Florence is really a beautiful city! I’d love to return and stay a while more.


And I’ve really loved having my mom here in Italy.  It’s fun to share with her what I’ve been learning and seeing since being abroad.

Up next: My final days in Rome and traveling back to the States!