After Florence we headed to Venice. The weather turned grey and wet, which probably made Venice feel much wetter than it really is. The grey clouds didn't stop Wendy and Rich for getting us on a Gondola to celebrate my 30's. Thanks! I was serenaded by the gondolier and I even got to ride the gondola :).
In general I didn't love Venice. It is wet, musty, falling a part and to me it seemed like a place that doesn't belong to anyone. The main streets are incredibly crowded and although there are plenty of peaceful side streets they always end up in a canal  without a bridge :). The cathedral is amazing and it's sinking! We went during high tide and the water was up to the ankles, kind of funny. I did love going out to the water, I think it makes for a much more pleasant way to appreciate the city
Here is a short clip from me as a captain of the gondola. The clip is overexposed thanks to Rich :)
 
 
I absolutely loved this city. Its colors and planning. No many cars are allowed in the center, which really allows for a great atmosphere to contemplate the sites. Although the are crowds, we all fit. You are also not being overwhelmed by vendors trying to get you to buy a group tour, at least not as in your face as in Rome. We stayed 20 minutes or so outside of the city near the town of Donnini. Our airbnb site was a private and super cozy Tuscan country house. We liked it so much that we extended our stay one day

The Sounds of Florence

 
 
We spent a couple of days in Rome. Suffice to say that two days are certainly not enough in a city with so much history, but they are plenty for the legs. I've never seen so many great art, architecture and history at once.  The lines are long, sites are crowded, but this ancient city has a place for all. Our days started and ended standing on Rome's dirty and unique metro. We visited as many of the sites as we could - and again, I really wished I had my SRL camera.... :(

The Colosseumm and the Forum

The Pantheon

There are many things that are really special about the Pantheon. Here you are not visiting ruins, or a site that belongs for history books. This is a place that is as much part of Rome today as it perhaps was 2000 years ago. Magnificent yet there is something ordinary about it. A site that stands on its own and not because of our efforts as a society to preserve it. An spiritual experience, where history is a feeling as opposed to a story written in a book.
Picture
The Vatican:

I certainly have no words to describe the amount of great art at the Vatican. The sculpture collections are so vast, the murals so rich and large, and St. Peters so enormous and golden, that it is really hard to believe that this is all in the same place. In many ways it was personally overwhelming to me. The feeling that all this art, history and beauty belongs to a single religion is unreal and impressive.  It is well more over the top, than "over the top" can embrace. The place is magnificent as it is every piece of art inside.

 
 
Wendy deserves all the credit for taking us to Orvieto. Despite us taking longer than expected around every place we went, Wendy insisted that we must see the beautiful cathedral in Orvieto. The cathedral is absolutely amazing. Its large scale, highly ornamented facade and stained glass makes for a "must see" place. I was really sad I only had my phone to photograph this place.
Our stay in Orvieto was accompanied by two wonderful surprises. The first was the lovely Agritourismo Cioccoleta. This farm house is a lovely place to stay and the host is super nice. The breakfast was also amazing and made to order!
Our experience around Orvieto ended with a cooking class in Sagra in Casa. Our teacher Simona was super nice, warm, and with a great sense of humor. We had a fun group of people, made amazing appetizers, parmigiana and panna cotta. We learned many interesting italian cooking tips and drank several glasses of local wine that Simona kindly offer. Her farm is very cute. Definitely, recommended! Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures because I was to busy giggling with the local wine and deep-frying the eggplants! I'll soon get some pics from dave or Wendy and hopefully the recipes too.
 
 
During our stay in San Vincenzo, we also visited the near-by medieval town of Volterra. Small streets, ceramic shops, cafes, interning churches and the remains of Roman theater make for a good Tuscan afternoon.
Since all roads lead to Rome, this was our obvious next destination. We left San Vincenzo and planned to spend one night in Orvieto before diving into the full Roman experience. On our way to Orvieto, we stopped in Montalcino looking for a cafe with internet for Dave. This medieval town was nice, calm and with plenty of possibilities for wine tasting.