Our first stop in Italy was Pisa, and what a lovely place to spend an afternoon. We headed straight for the famous leaning tower along with all the other tourists, took the requisite photos, admired the upright buildings surrounding the tower, and picked out a best friend for Mikey J that he would become inseparable from for the rest of the trip (a.k.a. a straw hat). Wandering back along the shadiest streets we could find (we thought France was hot!) we had our very first Italian meal in Italy, a delicious antipasto on a misty patio. By the time we hopped our train, we were content and excited about this Italian leg of our trip!
Paris may be labelled the city of love, but Florence is a stiff competitor in the romance department. How can you help yourself in a city saturated with comfort food, cheap wine, stunning views against a backdrop of Tuscan mountains, and art and architecture from the greatest artists of our time? Actually, it may have been too much at a certain point! Case in point: we were literally dragging our feet through the epic Uffizi museum and ended up walking right past the only Michelangelo. Oops! In our defense, the place was a sauna and was rammed with tour groups. Whatever... give me another scoop of gelato and let's catch the train!
After our failed museum attempt in Florence, we decided to skip them entirely in Rome. And, quite frankly, we didn't miss them one bit. Architectural ruins and historical monuments were everywhere you looked in Rome, littering the ground at your feet and growing out of modern buildings like something living and organic. Combine that with the sheer age of these relics and it was a pretty overwhelming experience.
How can you wrap your head around the fact that you're sitting on a piece of rock that may have fallen from a home built in 42 BC? Or that the black stain you see at the top of those columns was a result of the Great Fire of AD 64 that nearly destroyed all of Rome? Take a breath, swallow that lump in your throat, and then go eat more pasta! Ha!
Speaking of food, on our very first night in Rome we discovered a gem: a welcoming place where they serve complimentary champagne while you peruse the menu, a place where the servers provide you with cigarettes in a pinch, a place where the food melts in your mouth and the wine goes down like water. We ate at RomAntica three times in two days with absolutely no regrets. Prego!
After twenty-four days, fourteen cities, ten beds (plus one train floor), and hundreds of miles, Malta was a breath of fresh air. We were so tired of finding our way, picking restaurants, and translating foreign languages, so arriving in Malta to the outstretched arms of two of our best friends was the best thing that could happen to us on the final leg of our vacation! I think we would have been happy to simply socialize with our friends and relax on the beach the entire time, so we pretty much felt like we had died and gone to heaven when we were piled into a 1969 Mercedes every day and shown everything that Malta has to offer: a tumultuous and courageous history, unbelievable stone architecture towering above the ocean, deliciously fresh seafood, a boat party and an outdoor reggae party in one day, a stunning private villa, salty skin and beach picnics, late nights and lazy mornings, old friends and new friends -- a perfect finale to a perfect trip!