Blue Grotto: A Magical Tourist Trap

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If you look up the term <<tourist trap>> in Urban Dictionary, the top definition is “a place specifically designed to attract stupid tourists and take their money.” The connotation is decidedly negative. But when I attach the label to Capri’s famous Blue Grotto, I’m by no means saying that the cavern carved into the island’s rocky coastline isn’t worth a visit. The way the water glows neon blue is otherworldly, and photos simply cannot replicate the experience of gliding across it in a rowboat with the melodies of singing Italian oarsmen echoing off the walls. Still, it’s very much so a business operation, and it’s better to know what you’re getting into beforehand to temper your expectations.

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Capri: So Much More Than Pants

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My husband and I spent our honeymoon island hopping across Greece and fell in love with the Cyclades, so when I booked our trip to Capri and the Amalfi Coast I knew we weren’t going to be able to help but compare the two Mediterranean destinations. We weren’t the only ones: While wandering around the maze of shops snuggled into the cliffs in Positano, I overheard one girl announce to another that she definitely preferred the Italian coast to the Greek island of Santorini. My verdict? I doubt anything will ever surpass the magical two weeks we spent celebrating our marriage and feasting on fresh Greek cuisine with breathtaking views of whitewashed houses perched above dreamy blue water. But Capri and Positano both charmed us, and I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to anyone who can handle a short ferry ride or a winding drive through the Italian cliffs (more on that later).

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Pompeii: In the Shadow of Vesuvius

We left Naples early Thursday morning and boarded a crowded, graffiti-covered train that we thought would drop us off outside the ruins of Pompeii — but luckily we figured out that was not the case just as the doors started to close and jumped back onto the platform. Twenty minutes later, we were on the correct crowded, graffiti-covered train, and about 40 minutes after that we were standing in the ticket line outside Pompeii’s entrance. The site has free luggage storage so the plan was to spend the day exploring the ruins and then reclaim our bags and take the train to the port of Sorrento with enough time to catch the last ferry to Capri. We had a couple of further hiccups — like waiting for the ferry at the wrong dock — but we made it to Capri in the end. And Pompeii itself? Absolutely worth the logistical headache.

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Naples: Pizza with a Side of History

We got home late last night from our six-day adventure through Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, and I’m still glowing (literally, in fact: I have a bit of a tan!) We had an absolutely wonderful time. I’ll spend the next week blogging and sharing photos of the highlights, so stay tuned. First up: Naples! But before I get started, here’s a view out the plane window during our flight to Italy. Bongiorno, Alps!

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My friends who had already spent time in Naples warned me that it is a “gritty” city, but I was still unprepared for what that entailed: Continue reading

Florence: Melissa Meets David

Florence was hot. I mean high 90s and humid every day kind of hot (that’s high 30s for my non-American readers). Even so, my parents, sister, Guillaume and I had an incredible few days learning, eating, drinking and shopping our way through the city (maybe I should say eating again because, oh my gosh, we ate well).

For starters, we stayed in a great Airbnb right across from the duomo, so this was our view every morning:

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Pisa: That’s One Crooked Tower

Plenty of people told me that there is nothing to do in Pisa but see the leaning tower, and, after my own visit, I can see why. The former port city has other beautiful landmarks — the duomo for one, the baptistery and the charming town itself — but the main tourist draw is definitely the tower and, more specifically, pushing to the front of the crowds to take a photo in front of it (see below). For reasons we never figured out, many of the stores and restaurants were closed the Saturday we visited, which added to the sense of the tower being the only game in town. All that being said, I found the trip to be totally worth it. I mean, that tower is actually leaning! A lot! I’m sure you’ve read about it and seen photos, but when you’re standing there in front of it, taking in the crazy tilt in person, that’s something else.

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Chianti: Pour Me Another

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Our decision to book a half-day wine tour in Chianti, Italy, was a very last-minute one: We originally signed up for a Sunday bike tour through Tuscany that included a visit to a castle and wine and olive oil tastings, but we cancelled once we found out it was going to be 99 degrees outside. Then Saturday, hanging out at a cafe in Pisa, my dad used the wifi to scout out other options and snagged us seats on a wine tour in — the top selling point — an air-conditioned van.

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