We’re back from vacation! And we’ve just been unwinding from our trip. We tried to not sleep at all on our flight to avoid jet lag lol. And it didn’t work. We are so jet lagged.
Greece and Italy have been two of Cindy’s bucket list destinations ever since she was in high school. For her, this vacation has been a dream come true. For Jake, this vacation has been a journey through history. We feel so thankful for the opportunity to go on such a long trip (17 days!). We really took advantage of the fact that we both have summer vacations!
We visited 5 places in total. In Greece, we explored Athens and Santorini. And in Italy, we explored Rome, Florence, and Venice. We spent about 2-3 days in each place. For us, 2-3 days felt like it was a satisfactory amount of time to take in each city. We were able to visit all the popular touristy sites and even had time to take siestas!
Athens was amazing. It was pretty unbelievable to see the actual, historical places talked about in the bible in real life and know that those were real places. Physically visiting the settings of Paul’s missionary work really brought the Bible to life. It also reminded us that God is a living God – one who acts and has acted in very real ways.
Places we visited: Acropolis (of course) & the museum, Temple of Zeus, Hadrian’s Temple, Ancient Roman Agora & the museum, Temple of Hephaestus, a bunch of other ancient temples and stuff, Panathenaic Stadium, Monastiraki Square, and Historic Plaka.
We also went with a tour group to Ancient Corinth which is about one and a half hours away from Athens. Ancient Corinth is surprisingly well preserved! On the way, the tour guide shared interesting stories about the Apostle Paul that reveals why he chose or used the analogies that he did in Acts. It is likely that he kept referring to running the race (Corinth. 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it”) because he stayed in Corinth long enough to watch all the ancient games.
Foods we loved: Cindy’s favorite were the dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). She wanted to eat them everyday! She also loved the “Greek Breakfast”. Jake’s favorite were the octopus.
Santorini was beautiful. We took a 6 hour ferry from Athens to Santorini. Once we got off the boat, we were greeted with SO MUCH CHAOS and TONS of people trying to shuffle you onto random buses or trying to convince you to rent a car. We had a stressful, chaotic, and disappointing first day in Santorini, but that was no indication of how the rest of our time there would be. Santorini ended up as both our favorites, activities-wise. We stayed on Perissa Beach, which is on the southeast end of the island (on the opposite side of Oia–the city Santorini is probably most famous for).
The place we stayed was a 2 minute walk to the beach, so we were hanging out at the beach every day. Santorini was SUPER hot. One of the days, the day Jake planned, we rented bikes and rode them along the south end of the island and explored the different colored beaches (red, black, and white sands). Then, we parked our bikes and walked to this really cool Lost Atlantis Museum (some people believe the myth of Atlantis started with the island of Santorini because it was submerged underwater after a massive eruption several thousand years ago). Anyway, we ended up walking 7 miles to and from the museum, in blistering heat, in the middle of the day only to find out we could have taken a bus that would’ve gotten us to the museum in 15 minutes vs. the 3 hour trip we did. We like to joke now that when Jake plans the day, it’s overdrive on the activities he packs in. This was Jake’s favorite day.
Cindy’s favorite day was the day we explored Oia. Oia is so picturesque and so beautiful. It can get really crowded with all the tourists, so we woke up really early to get there and take it in before all the people arrived. The water was so warm and blue there. We ended up jumping off a more than 20-foot tall platform built into a cliff! It was exhilarating.
Rome was also amazing! To get to Rome, we took a short flight from Santorini Airport. Let us tell you, everything you read online about Santorini airports is true. It’s chaotic and cramped but it really added to our experience.
Rome was beautiful. The architecture in Rome just took our breath away. And the churches are so beautiful. Rome was also super hot, but the humidity hot. We kept joking “it’s the humidity that gets ya” but that is so true. To visit the churches, we had to follow the dress code which meant no exposed shoulders for women and no shorts or skirts above the knees for men and women. Jake wore pants and Cindy wore long skirts and we were basically walking around soaking in our own sweat lol.
Places we saw: Colosseum (so Gladiator vibes that day), Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza Del Popolo, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica (and we climbed the dome!).
We had on our itineraries to visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which we did. But it was so hot and Cindy’s feet were hurting from the cactus she dropped on her foot (more on that later), that we ended miserably walking through the whole thing.
The Sistine Chapel was so beautiful and totally not what we expected. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but it’s really one of those things you just have to go see for yourself. We thought the entire roof of the Sistine Chapel was The Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo, but actually that painting was just one panel in what must have been hundreds of panels depicting stories from the bible. It’s so beautiful, but we kept wondering how people weren’t getting neck cricks from craning their heads up to see the ceiling. We had to periodically take breaks and look down at the ground before looking back up lol.
Foods we loved: Cindy’s favorite is the Carbonara! And Jake’s favorite was the calzones. We had the most expensive gelato, but surprisingly what we had more than gelato was cappuccinos! We had afternoon cappuccino almost every day.
Florence was beautiful and was Cindy’s favorite place (with a close close second being Venice). It felt like we were traveling through time going from Athens to Rome to Florence. We went from seeing the birth place of Western civilization to the birth place of the Renaissance. It was beautiful the details and intricacies in the architecture of the churches and buildings. And it was pretty cool to know that we were walking in the footsteps of people like Galileo and Michelangelo.
What Cindy enjoyed most about Florence was the Airbnb we stayed in. She loves the Italian windows and how they open out to a view of the beautiful buildings and cobblestone streets. We spent a good chunk of our time in Florence just sitting in front of the windows people watching and enjoying the breeze. There was also a thunderstorm on one of the days we were there, so we stayed in and read books/people watched. And while also getting bit by mosquitoes (we were such easy targets sitting by the window). There are lots of mosquitoes in Italy, especially in Florence. If you ever go, bring repellent!
Things we did: explored Piazza della Repubblica (and watched the famous carousel), walked around Piazza della Signoria (and took in the Fountain of Neptune), walked across all the beautiful bridges (especially Ponte Vecchio), Galleria dell’ Accademia (and saw the famous David), took in the Cathedral of Santa Maria (and climbed the Duomo), visited Santa Croce Church (and saw Galileo and Michelangelo’s tombs), and last but not least attended a pasta making class!
Jake was super excited for the pasta making class and it was one of those experiences that is once in a lifetime. We had so much fun learning how to make pasta without a pasta machine and how to cook the pasta the Italian way. We learned how to make tortellini, bow tie pasta, and so much more. We highly recommend taking a pasta making class in Florence!
Venice, with it’s canals, pastel painted buildings, red geraniums hanging from windows, and clothes lines was picturesque at every turn. Venice is so special and unique, it was the perfect last stop for our trip. There are no cars in Venice and the majority of people get around either on foot or by boat. We saw construction boats, trash collection boats, and delivery boats. It was so interesting to see boats used for jobs we normally associate with trucks!
We only spent a day and a half in Venice, and honestly it was enough for us. It was just enough to take in all the sights and see the popular sites.
We didn’t do too much in Venice. On the day we arrived, we spent all afternoon wandering around the city. The alleys and neighborhoods felt like a maze filled with interesting shops and secret canals. The second day, we explored Doge’s Palace and went on a gondola ride! We spent a good chunk of time debating whether or not we wanted to go on a gondola ride since they are so expensive (80 euros!). But we’re so glad we went! It’s expensive (don’t bring it up to Jake – he’ll want to start a discussion about government bestowed oligopolies and other not so fun topics), but it truly is a once in a life time experience to ride a gondola along the canal in Italy! We knew if we didn’t do it, we would’ve regret it.
Random Stories From the Trip
In order to not check any bags (for fear of losing them between destinations), we packed light which meant we couldn’t pack enough clothes for 17 days. So, we did laundry as we went! We bought these travel Tide packs and a drying line and washed and dried our clothes at each destination.
In Rome, Cindy was drying clothes and stupidly tied the drying line to an unsecured shelf. The weight of the wet clothes pulled the shelf over and a cactus fell onto Cindy’s foot. We don’t want to get too gory, but Jake had to pull out a bunch of cactus spines from her foot. One was almost 2 inches long! We just pulled out a couple more a few days ago– they’re still in her foot.
We were getting tired of Italian food by the time we got to Venice, so we decided to eat at a Chinese restaurant. It was so interesting to see an Italian menu for Chinese food!
Jake was basically dripping sweat the entire trip.
We had such an amazing time in Greece and Italy. We saw so much, did so much, ate so much, and walked so much, that it feels impossible to capture our entire trip in a blog post. These are just glimpses our vacation. We feel so thankful for it all.
Thanks for reading!