Gdansk, Poland

There is absolutely no way that I am leaving it until mid-September to go away on holiday, I have never ever looked forward to a holiday so much in my life, long awaited indeed.

Much like our trip to Italy last year, we started off by booking flights (we booked these at the start of the year which made the wait until September even worse!), and to try and make things a little cheaper, we decided to try work some route out using direct flights to and from Aberdeen.

Wizz Air started doing direct flights to Gdansk and Warsaw earlier this year, and I had visited friends in Poland last year, and Emma wasn't able to make it, so we figured that was a good enough place to start!

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Rome Revisited, Last Stop - Italy Adventures

I was going to just add this on to the original Rome post, when we started our travels in Italy, but Emma suggested that I make a new post, and well, she knows best, right? So here it is, a completely new post on our last day spent in Rome before our flight the following day! I'm really glad we decided to head back to Rome the day before our flight, rather than getting the train back from Florence in the morning. It probably would have resulted in a lot of running about no doubt, but this way we were able to pack the night before, and then hop on the Leonardo Express from Rome's Termini station which was only 5 minutes from our hotel.

For this visit back to Rome, we stayed in the Augusta Lucilla Palace, a hotel which is literally a 5-10 minute walk from Termini Station, ideal if you're looking to catch the train to the airport, or wanting to make use of the metro system. The hotel itself was lovely, and they upgraded our room to this HUGE suite, with a bed that vibrates (massages, apparently)!

We arrived quite early to the hotel, and weren't able to check in, but they took our bags from us and asked us to come back for around 1pm, so that left a few hours to go kill some time. With our stomachs rumbling, we went and grabbed some breakfast on Piazza della Repubblica, overlooking the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.

We had hoped to leave the rain behind in Florence, but sadly, Rome was the same. It was actually pretty cold when the wind was blowing, Emma rocking a jacket, but I was still determined with the shorts and t-shirt, regretting it a little at breakfast. Perfect temperature for walking though, especially with a light drizzle to cool you down every now and again, and since we seemed to enjoy walking, that's just what we done!

Heading to the Colosseum, as I was determined to get a picture of the arch (Arco di Costantino) which is next to it, however, I didn't remember the foreground and background to be so bleak, so it really was a little underwhelming.

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Arco di Costantino, underwhelming, right?

Anyway, we decided to head in the direction of the arch, but this just seemed to be where all the coaches stopped to drop people off to visit the Colosseum, and then we found the entrance to the Palatino, or the Palatine Hill, and for only 7e each or so, this was bound to kill some time.

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Entrance to the Palatino.

The Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill are adjacent to each other, so paying this one entrance fee, meant we were free to roam around this large area of ancient ruins. Really really really worth doing if you have a spare couple of hours just to wander around.

Some of the ruins in here are just amazing, I'll leave the pictures to do the talking.

PS. Make sure you check out absolutely all of the view points on offer for some spectacular views of the Colosseum and across the Roman Forum itself.

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New Balance 996PU

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It was now well after 1pm, so we headed back to the hotel so we could check in and change our clothes.

Our plan for the rest of the day was simple... City Sightseeing Tours! But this probably really wasn't the best idea considering just how wet it would get.

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New Balance MFL574 Fresh Foam

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Similar to the City Sightseeing Tours in Florence, the bus departed from the train station, so we headed there to buy some tickets and wait for the bus. However, it had just started pouring down with rain, but we were determined that we'd complete the full tour which took around an hour.

In all honesty, we probably should have done this bus tour on the first day, because we realised how surprisingly close everything was, particularly how close the Vatican City was to our first hotel, and the Castel Sant'Angelo.

I probably spent most of the time trying to avoid the absolute river that was flowing off the roof of the bus and into the bus itself, but my shorts were already absolutely soaking and feeling like wet cardboard. I figured it was probably best to put the camera back in it's bag, so sadly there are no shots from the bus tour. While trying to avoid the rain running into the bus, we drove past the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, and decided that we'd get off here once the tour had completed and then went back around to this stop.

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The Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore is spectacular! Don't let the back of it fool you, as that's the side you'll probably see from the road, so make sure you walk round to the front and head in to explore.

Basilicas were clearly on the agenda today, and we headed back to the spot where we had breakfast in the morning, the Piazza della Republicca, to check out the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a 16th century church that doesn't look like much from the outside, but trust me, you need to go in!

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And sadly, that's pretty much it in terms of our time in Rome, and our time in Italy. We spent the night just chilling with no camera, lots of food, ice cream, and searching through all the souvenir shops for last minute Pope related gifts for my family.

Hopefully some of the info in the last few blog posts of our trips to Rome, Pompeii, Pisa and Florence will be of use to anyone planning to go there, or if not, I hope you just enjoyed looking at the pictures, because I know I enjoyed taking them and exploring these amazing places. Already looking forward to planning our next trip to Italy and exploring somewhere new!

Rome - Italy Adventures

July and August have been very busy months with a lot of footwear related stuff towards the end of July and beginning of August, and then with going on holiday so shortly after, I never had much time to get through all of the footwear things. So I apologise for the lack of content on here recently, but I've been posting quite a lot on Instagram since I've been away, and after I've got through all the content from my holiday, I'll jump back to the footwear and will post my SoleBloc Round-Up, along with an interview that was conducted at the NB Real Ale Event.

Anyway, enough of the formalities, myself and Emma had never been to Italy before, so a few months back we booked some return flights to Rome, and then had 10 days to fill in so got down to the planning. First off, since we were flying into Rome, we decided to spend 4 nights here as this would be one of the main places we wanted to spend some time. If I'm honest, we could probably have just spent the full 10 nights here, Rome is such an amazing place with so much to do, and just generally a pretty great vibe in the city.

DAY 1 - 

We arrived on the afternoon of Friday the 7th, and left the air conditioned cabin of the British Airways plane, to be greeted by a wall of heat, us Scots definitely aren't built for it. After getting through all the usual airport shit, we headed for the train station, bought a ticket for what we hoped was the Leonardo Express (thankfully it was) to take us into Termini station in central Rome. Half an hour later, we arrived at Termini, only to realise we hadn't bothered to print out directions to our hotel, and with no signal on our phone, all we had was a rough idea of the area it was in, and a Rome Metro Map. Winging it a little and establishing that the station 'Lepanto' was relatively close to our hotel, we bought a 72 hour metro ticket (thinking that this would be useful to get us about) and headed for the platform.

Honestly, I advise everyone to print out directions, because trying to figure out where you're going in 40 degree heat while carrying all your bags, is definitely not a good look, but we made it, eventually. To be fair, we'd actually done not bad considering.

We stayed in the Visconti Palace Hotel, a really lovely hotel just over the other side of the Fiume Tevere on Via Federico Cesi, in the Prati region of Rome. We were a little hesitant at how far out the hotel was from everything, so as you do, you go for a little stroll, and I think we ended up walking something like 13 miles before we stopped to grab some food. We didn't walk 13 miles because the hotel was so far away from everything, we walked 13 miles because it's really easy to walk a lot in Rome centre without realising it. Every corner you turn, there's just another amazing building, and you just keep going and going. We stumbled upon so much without actually making the effort to look for it.

We knew the river was close to our hotel, so we tried our best to head for there and find the nearest bridge. To get to the nearest bridge, we had to pass through Piazza Cavour which is home to the Palace of Justice, Rome's Supreme Court, and reaching Ponte Sant'Angelo, which as an added bonus, has the amazing Castel Sant'Angelo at one end of it.

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Palace of Justice, Piazza Cavour.

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Castel Sant'Angelo from Ponte Sant'Angelo.

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Looking out from Ponte Sant'Angelo with St. Peter's Basilica in the distance.

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Parrocchia Santa Maria in Vallicella.

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Now that we crossed the river, heading in no particular direction, we stumbled across Campo de' Fiori, which is a market by day, and a bustling square lined by restaurants at night, with a monument of Giordano Bruno at the centre.

Wanting to explore more, we decided that this is where we'd head back to for food, if we could find it again that is...

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Monument of Giordano Bruno at the centre of Campo de' Fiori.

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Sant'Andrea della Valle.

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Chiesa del Gesù.

The next part of central Rome that we came to was particularly great, and not only provided us with some amazing views of the sunset, but also just some pretty breathtaking views of the surrounding area and buildings.

Coming out to Piazza Venezia, you are presented with the crazy Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, and if you manage to brave the road to make it into the grassy centre of the square, then you get an even better view of this huge monument in all it's glory.

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Looking down Via del Plebiscito at Chiesa di San Giuliano dei Fiamminghi. 

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Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II.

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Looking down Via del Corso from Piazza Venezia.

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Palazzo Venezia.

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Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli.

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Looking down Via del Teatro di Marcello at Teatro Marcello.

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After taking a few shots of the monument, the next thing to do is to head over to the front of it, right? Well, make sure you do this, and then head right at brave the second set of stairs on your left because this takes you up to Campidoglio, a Michelangelo designed square.

You are now essentially on the Capitoline Hill, and from here, head to the left of the museum in front of you, where you will find a path, and a pretty spectacular view point over the Roman Forum. When we turned down this little path to be greeted by this view, it literally took our breaths away, a must do for sure.

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Foro Romano.

While you're overlooking the Roman Forum and surrounding areas from the Capitoline Hill, you can't miss the magnificent Colosseum in the distance, so that was our next place to visit, and heading left to the main road, Via dei Fori Imperiali will take you all the way down to the Colosseum.

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Colosseo.

After we grabbed some food at the square we visited earlier, with the extreme heat in Rome over the last week or so, there was plenty of thunder and lightning that evening, so we figured we'd be able to get a good view of it from the bridge near the castle, and conveniently this was the route back to our hotel anyway.

We stayed on the bridge for around an hour taking pictures, and we only got lucky with one, but it's a cracker if I do say so myself!

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DAY 2 - 

An early start for our second day in Rome as we were heading to the Vatican City, and had booked a tour with Walks of Italy. If you are intending to visit the Vatican City, then I seriously recommend you book this tour, because it gets you in before the public, and you only have to wait in a very short line with all the other groups. I have included the tour link here, where you can find all the information needed.

We essentially seen the best of the Vatican City in under 4 hours, and because we went straight to the Sistine Chapel first, we got to marvel at the spectacular chapel with very few other people there, whereas if we hadn't booked the tour, we'd have had endure it with hundreds more people.

Also, our guide was particularly excellent, he stuck with the relatively small group of around 12 of us, and provided us with plenty information, as well as just genuinely being a really nice guy. We even bumped into him later that evening by chance, and he remembered us and said hello, great guy.

Anyway, I won't say much else about the Vatican City tour, as I'll just let the pictures do the talking (no pictures of the Sistine Chapel however, as photos are not allowed). Seriously, every room and corridor in this place is spectacular, enjoy.

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The last part of the tour with Walks of Italy is the amazing St. Peter's Basilica, an absolute wonder in itself, never mind everything else there is in the Vatican City. We spent some time in here just admiring how grand everything is in here, whether it's the construction, the artwork or the magnificent domes.

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While we were inside the basilica and looking up at the huge dome, we noticed some people up the top of the dome, so figured we could get up there. Exiting the basilica, and then taking a left and then another left, it brings you to the entrance where you can pay to climb the 551 stairs to the top of St. Peter's dome.

The first step of the climb is relatively easy, and it opens out onto the roof, where there is a gift shop, small cafe, and plenty of places to get some views out over room.

Now I'll say it just now, if you are claustrophobic in the slightest, you'll probably not want to bother with the second part of the climb, as to get to the top of the dome, you climb stairs in between the inner and outer domes, and there is barely enough room to stand upright.

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St. Peter's Square from St. Peter's Dome.

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St. Peter's Dome.

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St. Peter's Dome.

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Before heading back down, we grabbed a couple of postcards, wrote them out and sent them home, while rehydrating ourselves with water and gelato!

After the climb back down, we had a wander around St. Peter's Square, but honestly, it was around 2pm by this time, and we had been out and about since 7:30am, so we just headed back to our hotel to grab a few hours sleep before heading out for the evening.

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St. Peter's Square from the front of St. Peter's Basilica.

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St. Peter's Basilica.

After our first wander around the centre on the first night, we knew there were a few places that we still hadn't managed to find yet, such as the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain, so we set off on a little adventure to find these three places.

We had a rough idea where the Pantheon was, so we tried to head here first, and came across the really lovely Piazza Navona, another bustling square lined by amazing buildings and plenty of restaurants.

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Santa Maria della Pace.

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Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona.

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Sant'Agnese in Agone from Piazza Navona.

After heading through Piazza Navona, we found the Pantheon, and the Pantheon itself sits in Piazza della Rotonda, a really lovely square which has lots of restaurants and gelaterias down various side streets, with the square itself usually having someone playing music with many people just sitting around chilling. A really nice atmosphere.

The Pantheon is free to enter, but is closed at night, so if you're planning to visit, swing by during the day or in the early evening, it's definitely worth checking out.

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Pantheon.

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From the Pantheon, we might have got a bit lost trying to look for the Spanish Steps, but we did however find a New Balance store, so that made up for it a little bit.

Also, on our way to the Spanish Steps, there was a light rain shower, and I've honestly never been so glad to see rain than I was then. Perfect.

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Fontana della Barcaccia.

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Spanish Steps.

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From the top of the Spanish Steps looking down Via dei Condotti.

Next stop - Trevi Fountain. Sadly, the Trevi Fountain is currently undergoing restoration works, which you can see in the picture below, but it is still worth a visit, and make sure you turn your back to the fountain and throw a coin over your shoulder. Hopefully you manage to make it into the little bit of water that remains.

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Fontana di Trevi.

As it was still relatively early, and we weren't quite hungry yet, we went on another wander, still trying to get our bearings of where exactly everything is within the centre of Rome, it makes it a lot easier to navigate, rather than having to rely on the metro system to get us about.

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S. Marcello al Corso.

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Santa Maria in Via Lata.

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Piazza Foro Traiano.

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Mercati di Traiano.

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Looking down Via dei Fori Imperiali at the Colosseo.

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Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina.

The sun had now set, and our bellies were rumbling, so we headed back to Piazza Navona to grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants around the square. Pretty much every meal we were skipping dessert, and just heading to grab gelato after (you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to gelato), until I got hooked on Tiramisu that is.

You'll probably remember the castle I mentioned briefly from day 1? Castel Sant'Angelo. Well, we were trying to pack in as much as possible (if you hadn't already noticed), so on the way back to the hotel, we paid the small entry fee to get into the castle and went exploring. The castle itself has some really nice rooms within, but we were really wanting to check out the view from the top.

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View of St. Peter's Basilica from top of Castel Sant'Angelo.

Even from the bridge at the front of the castle, we had noticed the huge basilica in the distance, but hadn't been able to place which one it was. Even after being at the Vatican City that day, and then getting a better look at it from the top of the castle at night, it took me until the day we were leaving Rome, to realise that it was St. Peter's Basilica.

I don't think we anticipated it to actually to be that close, and in hindsight, I wish we had taken that walk from the castle and straight up Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter's Square.

DAY 3 - 

We had planned to do a day trip to Naples and Pompeii on the 10th of August, which would be Day 4 of our holiday, so for the third day, we wanted to just take it easy after a pretty long and tiring couple of days before.

We jumped on the Metro at Lepanto, and headed to Flaminio, where we got off and headed to Piazza del Popolo where we grabbed some lunch. Our plan was to venture through the Villa Borghese Gardens as it seemed like quite an extensive piece of greenery in Rome, certainly from a map anyway.

We headed up a load of stairs to get to the gardens, and took in the view at the top over Piazza del Popolo, then we noticed some signs for the zoo, so our inner child took over and we started following the signs.

Little did we know, the zoo must have been a couple of miles away at least, and it probably wasn't the best idea to visit in 40 degree heat, but anyway, I seen a couple of giraffes for the first time, so I really wasn't bothered!

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Looking over Piazza del Popolo.

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An apparent 'chill day' was followed by a definite 'chill night'. Again, we hopped on the Metro at Lepanto and this time headed to the Colosseo station, where we took a wander round the Colosseum, and then propped ourselves on a bunch up on a bridge overlooking the Colosseum and waited for sunset. Check out the images below, then we finished the night off with some food and of course, gelato.

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DAY 4 - 

Our 4th day in Rome featured a trip to Pompeii via Naples, and you can check that post out now.

However, although we left for Pisa the following day, we would be back to Rome for one final day before flying back home to Aberdeen.