Europe 2013 Trip Report Depository

This post is just a collection of all the parts of my Europe 2013 Trip Report.  If you’ve already read it, thank you; and if you’re new then welcome.



Part 1 – Beginnings

Part 2 – I’ll have a full English

Part 3 – The Bells of St. Paul’s

Part 4 – Finally some rain in London

Part 5 – A Magical End to Our Time in London


Part 6 – Wow, That’s Pretty Big

Part 7 – The View From the Hill

Part 8 – They Take Their Shopping Serious Here

Part 9 – Moms and I On Our Own

Part 10 – Where I Geek Out About French Cars

Part 11 – The Mustard Store

Disneyland Paris Resort

Part 12 – What Did I Get Myself Into

Part 13 – A 5 Minute Wait!?!

Part 14 – Disneyland Paris Gets Unique

Part 15 – A Disney Dream


Part 16 – I’ve Never Been So Scared


Part 17 – Bellissima Venezia

Part 18 – A Peaceful Walk Through the Streets of Venice


Part 19 – I Guess Tossing A Coin In the Trevi Fountain Works

Part 20 – Beneath The Vatican

Part 21 – Food So Nice We Had To Eat There Twice

Part 22 – Pain, An Accident, & Arrivederci


Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 22 – Pain, An Accident, & Arrivederci

The previous part can be found here.

This was our last day in Rome, and tomorrow we’d be headed home.  The only thing we had planned for today was to visit the Scala Sancta.  These are said to be the steps Jesus Christ went up on his knees on his way to Pontius Pilate during the Passion.  For centuries Christians have travelled to the steps and gone up them on their knees as well.  Today we planned to do the same just after the taxi dropped us off.  First though, a bathroom break across the street since there were no bathrooms where we were going.  This just happened to be San Giovanni in Laterano, one of the four major basilicas (four highest ranking Roman Catholic churches), the other three are St. Peter’s Basilica, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.  I knew of the major basilicas and wanted to visit them if we had time, so this was very opportune.  This isn’t one of the major tourist attraction churches so it doesn’t have as many people there and it’s still ridiculously beautiful to warrant a visit.

Untitled – San Giovanni in Laterano exterior
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Europe 2013 - 476 - DSC00960 – tomb of Pope Martin V with statue of St. John the Baptist
San Giovanni in Laterano
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We spent quite a bit of time there exploring and checking out the gift shop of course before we headed back to the Scala Sancta.  The actually close in the afternoon for a couple hours and we happened to arrive about an hour before they were scheduled to close, but we didn’t know it at the time.  There are other ways up, but these actual steps must be climbed on your knees.  It hurts.  A lot.  The original steps are marble, but have been covered in wood to preserve them and there are areas where the wood has worn down from all the visitors.  There are a couple of holes in the wood that are covered with a protective transparent material that have the blood of Jesus spilled that you can see.  One such spot is at the very top in the center.  The steps were full of people when we visited and some people pray for every step.  You can’t walk around them, so you spend a lot of your time on your knees waiting.  It was extremely painful and exhausting, but wow was it an amazing experience.

At the top of the steps is the Sancta Sanctorum aka the Holy of Holies, a private chapel for the Pope.  We spent some time in the tiny gift shop they have before leaving and realized they were about to close when we saw we were the last ones out.
Europe 2013 - 468 - DSC00940 – Scala Sancta building
Europe 2013 - 488 - DSC00993 – people climbing the steps
Europe 2013 - 489 - DSC00999 – Sancta Sanctorum
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Scala Sancta

We were tired and wanted to go rest, but couldn’t find a taxi stand nearby.  We started walking up a big street hoping to find something.  We didn’t find anything until we reached Santa Maria Maggiore, but were too tired to go in.
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This is where things got really interesting.  We found a taxi stand full of waiting taxis.  Moms, Jules, & I got in the front taxi and headed off.  We were planning on meeting at a McDonald’s near the hotel to grab a quick lunch.  As the taxi stopped, Moms went to exit on her side which had traffic and she opened the door into another taxi.  Our driver was mad, the other driver was mad, a third driver was mad since he couldn’t stop in time and hit the second taxi (even though his car was fine); you can imagine there was some very animated Italian being spoken at that moment.  Just not by us.  With the language barrier we couldn’t figure out what we were supposed to do.  Jules went to the hotel and got someone to translate for us.  While she was gone the police showed up.  They were super helpful and between them and the translator we got things settled.  At first the drivers were wanting sums of money and the cops told them that was ridiculous, and they told the third driver to butt-out since him crashing was his fault.  Eventually we agreed to pay 300 euro and call it even.  I’m not sure if it was the best decision, but in the heat of the moment it seemed the simplest.  All this time though, it’s just the three of us and we’re starting to wonder where the rest of our family is.  Jules got in touch with them and apparently none of the other taxis would pick them up because we were so close.  After getting Moms settled in the room, Jules and I walked back and lead them to the hotel.  We ended up getting some McDonald’s to bring to the room.
Europe 2013 - 495 - DSC01022 – the other taxi
Europe 2013 - 496 - DSC01023 – our taxi
Europe 2013 - 497 - DSC01029 – this McDonald’s milkshake was only a euro (why don’t we have dollar milkshakes in the US?)
Europe 2013 - 498 - DSC01030 – chicken sandwich

By this time, Moms was done for the day.  Cuz was still in search of the European version of the Lady Gaga album so they went to a nearby record store in search of it.  I had seen a store with model cars in the window not too far from our hotel earlier in the day and Jules and I went to check it out.  They didn’t have anything in the scale I wanted so I just bought some candy.  A couple hours later we all headed out and visited a nearby grocery store and did some last minute souvenir shopping before calling it a trip.
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When we were at the Scala Sancta the day before we had met a driver who gave us a good price on a trip to the airport.  We had called him later that evening and scheduled a pickup for this morning.  We drove to the airport and said goodbye to Europe.  I wish I could say the flight home was uneventful, but I’d be lying.  With about three hours left before we arrived in Philadelphia, the captain said we’d experience some mild-to-medium turbulence.  A little bit later the plane dropped.  I’m not sure how far, it was quick, but long enough for everyone on board to get weightless and only be held in by our seatbelts.  We all wanted off, but we were over the ocean.  I would’ve been fine if they stopped in Nova Scotia to let me off.  The next couple hours were scary with every little bump we felt.  In Philadelphia we talked briefly about renting a car and driving home and we overheard a couple other people having the same conversation.  We got on the other plane and were nervous as hell the rest of the way home.
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All the candy I brought home.  I did plan to share it, but I had to try it first since I didn’t want to give people horrible candies.  The Chunk Kit-Kat was hazelnut flavored and was basically a Nutella Kit-Kat, aka awesome.

When I think of Rome I think of food.  I have had some amazing meals there and that’s the biggest factor in making me want to return.  It’s a beautiful city.  Some areas, like the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, are like these hidden gems.  You don’t realize what you’re about to see until you get right in front of them.  The history they’ve preserved is fantastic.  Now that I’ve gotten the tourist stuff out of the way, I’d love to go back and really experience it like a Roman.

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 21 – Food So Nice We Had To Eat There Twice

Previous part here

On our last trip to Rome, our hotel had recommended a restaurant near the Pantheon called Casa Copelle.  It was delicious.  Since Castel Sant’Angelo was closed we decided to head to Casa Copelle for lunch.

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Europe 2013 - 450 - DSC00854 – Castel Sant’Angelo
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Europe 2013 - 451 - DSC00859 – the Tiber River
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Europe 2013 - 454 - DSC00878-Edit – Pantheon
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We had already been to the Pantheon, so we skipped it this time.  We did have the taxi drop us off there because I didn’t have the address of the restaurant, but I remembered how to get there from the Pantheon.  I had meatballs and Moms had carbonara.  It was still delicious.  After lunch, we headed back to the Pantheon to catch a cab back to the hotel.  First though, I had to stop for some gelato.  Previously we had really good gelato at Della Palma, which is also in the area, so as we were passing by I couldn’t resist.  I ordered two flavors, one was pink grapefruit, and the other I don’t remember.  The grapefruit was so good, it made me forget.  That was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life and I’m pretty sure it has spoiled me on all gelatos going forward since I’m yet to find that flavor again.
Europe 2013 - 456 - DSC00889 – meatballs
Europe 2013 - 457 - DSC00891 – spaghetti alla carbonara
Europe 2013 - 458 - DSC00894 – menu board behind the bar
Europe 2013 - 459 - IMG_1868 – pink grapefruit gelato along with some other flavor I can’t recall

Moms and I rested at the hotel for a while and eventually Jules came back.  Not too long afterwards, Nina and Fam finished their tour of the Vatican Museums and rejoined us.  Our last trip to Rome was definitely highlighted by fantastic food.  The staff at our hotel on that trip recommended some fantastic places (shout-out to Serena and Marco at Deko, they didn’t have two rooms available or else we would’ve stayed there again) and one of those places was Pizzeria San Marco.  I had this 4-cheese gnocchi there that was amazing and the thought of having that again was one of the reasons I wanted to go back to Rome.  So that was our dinner plan for tonight.  The food was excellent again (we were definitely eating good in Rome).
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Europe 2013 - 462 - DSC00922 – 4-cheese gnocchi
Europe 2013 - 463 - DSC00923 – roasted potatoes
Europe 2013 - 464 - DSC00924 – the Andy Warhol burger (Cuz’s order)
Europe 2013 - 465 - 2013-11-11 20.26.04 – I’m not sure what Nina ordered
Europe 2013 - 466 - DSC00925 – Uncle D’s steak
Europe 2013 - 467 - DSC00927 – Mom’s pizza

With our bellies full we made our way back to the hotel for the night.

Tomorrow would be painful

The last installment is here

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 20 – Beneath The Vatican

You can read about our first night in Rome here

Today Moms had booked us on the Scavi Tour.  It is a tour of the tombs beneath St. Peter’s Basilica.  We had breakfast at the hotel and then had them call us a taxi to leave the country.  We were a little early for our tour, so we took pictures and looked around St. Peter’s Square a little bit.  The Scavi Tour entrance is on the side of the basilica and you have book it in advance.  It’s in an area that I think is mainly adminstrative buildings for The Vatican and to get there you show the Swiss Guards there your paperwork for them to let you in.  At the allotted time they took our group, us 6 plus about 8 other people, to the tour office.  The tour is about an hour long so everyone took a potty break before we started since once you enter, you’re in there for the duration.

Europe 2013 - 422 - DSC00630 – Castel Sant’Angelo
Europe 2013 - 423 - DSC00635 – St. Peter’s Square
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Europe 2013 - 425 - DSC00671 – I saw this down a long hallway while waiting for the bathroom

A quick history lesson.  Roman at the time believed that you did not disturb the resting place of the dead.  When Saint Peter died, some of his followers snuck off with his body.  Knowing that once they buried him nobody would disturb his body and if they didn’t he wouldn’t have gotten any sort of proper burial.  So they buried him in this burial ground amongst other mausoleums and crypts.  St. Peter’s Basilica is built over the tomb of Saint Peter.  His tomb is directly below the main altar.  It had to be built there as the center of the Catholic Church.  Most of the previous Popes are in the crypt below the basilica.  A couple decades ago this area was small and uncomfortable to stand.  They were renovating the crypt to make some more room and discovered the mausoleums below.  During those excavations they discovered a tomb that seemed a little out of place.  This was the tomb of St. Peter.  The Scavi Tour is a tour of those mausoleums and gives you the closest view of St. Peter’s tomb.

You get a guide who explains the history and takes you down and talks in detail about everything going on down there.  They don’t allow photos and it can be pretty warm down there.  It’s a fascinating tour and I think most people don’t know it exists and never see it.

The tour ends with the crypts of the previous Popes, which is in a publicly accessible area, and you exit and can head into the basilica from there.  It actually bypasses the regular security check and line which can get long.  Once inside we all explored at our own pace.  I’ve seen a few older churches on this trip and in the past, but St. Peter’s Basilica still manages to impress.  On our last visit the front of the church near the main alter was blocked off, so we didn’t get to see that too much.  This time it was open though, so there was still something new for us.

Europe 2013 - 426 - DSC00692 – Michelangelo’s Pieta
Europe 2013 - 427 - DSC00693 – High Altar
Europe 2013 - 428 - DSC00704 – interior
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Europe 2013 - 431 - DSC00736_HDR – front entrance
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Europe 2013 - 438 - DSC00778 – crowds
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Europe 2013 - 441 - IMG_1486 – list of all the Popes buried at St. Peter’s
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Europe 2013 - 446 - DSC00826 – Swiss Guard
Europe 2013 - 447 - DSC00835 – statue of St. Peter
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Moms, Jules and I had already visited the Vatican Museums on our last trip so we weren’t looking to do it again. Nina and Fam left to see that and the Sistine Chapel. Jules left and decided to walk back to the hotel and just see whatever caught her interest. That left Moms and I alone. We headed down the street to Castel Sant’Angelo to check that out, but it was closed. Guess we’ll go get some food.

Part 21 can be found here

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 19 – I Guess Tossing A Coin In the Trevi Fountain Works

The previous part can be found here.

Nothing of note happened on the train to Rome.  I’ve taken the journey before, so I spent the time watching some Top Gear episodes and playing on my Vita.  The time passed pretty quickly for me, I don’t know about the others though.  We arrived at Termini Station and took two cabs to our hotel, Suite Dreams Rome.  This time we had the upgraded suite, but it really just meant we had a hot tub we never used.  It was getting to be dinner time so I looked online for some restaurants nearby.  I found one around the corner that had good reviews.  So we made the short trek to Target Ristorante.  I remember all of us really enjoying our meals here.
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Europe 2013 - 411 - DSC00595 – someone got a “salad”
Europe 2013 - 412 - DSC00596 – this was my pizza with potato and mozzarella
Europe 2013 - 413 - DSC00597 – pretty sure Moms got this risotto
Europe 2013 - 414 - DSC00598 – Cuz’s pizza
Europe 2013 - 415 - DSC00599 – spaghetti alla carbonara

After dinner, Moms was tired and went back to the room.  The rest of us walked over to the Hard Rock to get more shot glasses.  From there we headed to the Trevi Fountain.  The legend states that if you turn your back and toss a coin into the fountain it will guarantee your return to Rome.  I’m not saying it’s true, but I did toss a coin the last time I was there and here I was again.
DSC00603 – the light rain had continued to follow us and gave the streets a nice glisten
Europe 2013 - 418 - DSC00606 – Fiat 500
Europe 2013 - 421 - DSC00614 – a better view of the masses of people you have to wade through to get down to the fountain itself.

After tossing more coins in, we headed back to the hotel.  I do know gelato was bought and my slippery shoes continued to be a nuisance as I almost fell a couple times.

Tomorrow we had a tour of the tombs below the Vatican

The fun continues here

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 18 – A Peaceful Walk Through the Streets of Venice

Our arrival in Venice can be found here

We woke up the next morning with no concrete plans.  We knew we could just catch a train at anytime so we weren’t in a rush.  When we last visited, Jules and I had woken up early one day and went for a walk with not many people around.  It was great.  We were up fairly early this time and figured we’d keep the tradition going.  Last time we travelled east and ended up walking by the hotel we were staying at this time, so we continued east again.  A lot of people who visit Venice arrive on cruises and tours and only stay for part of a day.  When you stay longer and actually stay on the islands then the night time and early mornings give you a feeling like it’s just you and the locals.  Walking through the narrow streets with locals going about their daily routine is one of my favorite experiences.  We ended up making our way towards the Arsenal, which used to be the shipyards in Venice’s power days.  It was closed, but still looked impressive.  From there we headed towards the lagoon and eventually back towards the hotel.

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Europe 2013 - 389 - DSC00408Europe 2013 - 390 - DSC00409 – elaborate masks
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Europe 2013 - 392 - DSC00424 – Arsenal
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Europe 2013 - 395 - DSC00451 – St. Mark’s
Europe 2013 - 396 - DSC00452 – Santa Maria della Salute
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DSC00482-Edit.jpg – I almost fell in going to take this photo

When we got back Jules and I had breakfast since everyone else had eaten by then.  After breakfast, we all went our separate ways to get some souvenirs and look around.  We agreed to meet back at the hotel in an hour.
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Europe 2013 - 401 - DSC00490 – the Venetians know what’s up.

After adding more things to our luggage we decided to get a water taxi to take us back to the train station.  Taxis in Venice are not cheap, but this was a nice experience.  The vaporettos are fine, but can get crowded and take a long time.  This was a nice relaxing alternative.  The driver went out towards the north part of the lagoon and went around the islands before heading back in towards the Grand Canal.  Cuz and I practically monopolized the rear exterior position to get the best views.
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We got back to the train station and were in line to buy tickets when the train was leaving so we ended up with another short wait for the next train.

Let me rewind for a sec.  We weren’t in Milan long enough for me to really get a feel for it.  It’s not high on my list of places I’d go back to though.  I’d like to see The Last Supper and definitely eat at Luini’s, but I’m not sure if I’ll attempt to conquer the Duomo’s roof again.

The time we spent in Venice this trip was criminally short.  Venice is amazing.  We’ve had people tell us it’s smelly and you can see the highlights in a day.  We’ve yet to experience the first point, and the second part is technically true.  The thing is Venice is a city you just want to get lost in.  That’s part of it’s charm.  Even if you have a map, you’re kind of just walking in a general direction to get where you’re going.  A longer stay is a must for me sometime in the future.  I’ve never been to a city quite like it and I whole-heartedly recommend staying there for a couple days.

Up next, we arrive in Rome for the last leg of our trip.

Continue the report here

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 17 – Bellissima Venezia

You can get caught up with the previous part here.

The hotel had a breakfast buffet available and we all eventually made our way down to get some nourishment.  I walked around the hotel area a little to take some photos before we left.  There was this church down the street and I wish I would’ve gone inside.  I can’t find any information on it now, so I don’t even know what it was called.

Europe 2013 - 344 - DSC00233 – the church down the street

We would be leaving to Venice out of a different train station than the one we were next to, so we had the hotel call a cab for all of us.  Travelling by train in Italy is really easy-going.  Trenitalia, who seems to run all the trains in Italy, runs trains from the major cities every hour.  You don’t have to worry about booking seats in advance or showing up at a certain time.  You just show up and at most you’ll have an hour wait.  This was us, we just missed a train and had to wait.  We found an area to sit and most of us stayed there while some did some shopping to kill time.
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The train ride was uneventful and I don’t remember much of it really.  I think I slept for most of it or played games.  After about 4 hours we were in Venice.  Coming out of the train station and that first glimpse you get of the city is breath-taking.  We got tickets for the vaporetto, which is a water bus.  It has lots of stops along the Grand Canal and some of the outlying islands of the Venetian Lagoon; plus it would be dropping us off not too far from our hotel.
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Grand Canal
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Europe 2013 - 355 - DSC00318-2 – Saint Mark’s Square
Santa Maria della Salute – Santa Maria Della Salute

We made it to our hotel and only had to cross a couple bridges to get there.  We were staying at the Liassidi Palace Hotel.  The room was a good size and they included a complimentary bottle of Bellini for us.  Nina and fam had booked the upgraded suite on the top floor.  Their room had a separate living room and windows that overlooked a canal.
Untitled – our room
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Europe 2013 - 359 - DSC00270 – complimentary Bellini and chips
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Europe 2013 - 361 - DSC00278 – our floor had this sitting area in the middle of the rooms
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Europe 2013 - 363 - DSC00282 – the upgraded suite
Europe 2013 - 364 - DSC00283 – view from the suite
Europe 2013 - 365 - DSC00288 – the boat dock

We walked around a little bit before getting dinner.  I didn’t get the name of the restaurant, but it had some outdoor seating and we were the only ones there.  This was a great meal.  Moms and Uncle D each got roasted chicken and still talk about how good it was when they see each other.
Europe 2013 - 366 - DSC00294 – a drinking fountain
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mask in Venice
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Europe 2013 - 372 - DSC00322 – Jules got anchovies on her pizza
Europe 2013 - 373 - DSC00327 – gnocchi (mine)
Europe 2013 - 374 - DSC00328 – Nina tried spaghetti alla carbonara
Europe 2013 - 375 - DSC00329 – Cuz got something with clams
Europe 2013 - 376 - DSC00330 – roasted chicken

Everyone was having a good time relaxing with good food and good drink.  I was anxious to take some photos so I went walking about while they waited for the check.
Europe 2013 - 377 - DSC00337 – Bridge of Sighs
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After dinner we did some shopping in various stores as we made our way to Saint Mark’s Square.  At this time, the basilica was closed, but Hard Rock was open and there were shot glasses to buy.  We slowly made our way back to the hotel with some more shopping, a bird pooped on Nina, and gelato was eaten.  It was a good night.
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Europe 2013 - 382 - DSC00359 – Saint Mark’s belltower
Europe 2013 - 383 - DSC00360 – Saint Mark’s Basilica
Europe 2013 - 384 - DSC00361 – Saint Mark’s Square
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Once back at the hotel, we all went up to Nina & Fams suite with our bottles of Bellini.  We sat and talked and just enjoyed being on this trip and getting to experience everything we got to experience so far.  Definitely in the running for best moment of the trip.
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Unfortunately, tomorrow we’d be leaving Venice 😦 and making our way to Rome.

Our time in Venice continues here