Saturday, March 31, 2012

Girls Getaway to Florence, Italy - Day 1

Katie said it best upon arrival in Florence, if Rome is to visit, Florence is to live, shop and eat! And that’s exactly what we did!

After we checked in to our hotel, Delle Nazioni Hotel Florence, we walked the streets of Florence until we arrived at the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge). Built in 1345, the Ponte Vecchio is the oldest and most famous bridge across Florence’s Arno River. It is best characterized by the overhanging shops that have lined the bridge since the 12th century. In 1944, the Ponte Vecchio’s fame saved it as Nazis were ordered to blow up all bridges before leaving Florence. They couldn’t bring themselves to do it, so they blew up the ancient buildings on either end instead to block it off. In the Ponte Vecchio area are great stores, cafes and restaurants...definitely a must see while in Florence. Be sure to check out O. Volterrani - R. Raddi for some amazing jewelry.

From the Ponte Vecchio we made our way a few blocks to the Gallerie degli Uffizi. One of the world’s top museums, the Uffizi houses some of the best-known works of the Renaissance, including works by Titian, Leonardo de Vinci, Botticelli and Michelangelo. There are masterpieces in almost every room...we even stumbled upon a few we didn’t know were even there. We were captivated by the Birth of Venus and Venus of Urbino. During our tour, we stopped for iced cappuccino at the Uffizi’s Cafeteria. We enjoyed the drinks al fresco and basked in the Italian sun.

After soaking in more Renaissance art than one can imagine, we walked to the Piazza Del Duomo for a quick evening glimpse at the magnificent cathedral. In what looks like a modern-day wedding cake, the Duomo or Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori (pictured above) showcases brightly colored green and pink pastels, a bell tower and it’s famous dome that is symbol of Florence itself. The structure and piazza around it represent a very central and historic part of town.

After leaving the Piazza Del Duomo, we walked back towards our hotel and found a fabulous restaurant, Trattoria al Trebbio. Upon sitting down we saw the steaks at the nearby table and knew that’s what we wanted. From veal to steak to pasta to wine, everything here was delectable.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Girls Getaway to Rome - Day 3

First stop on day #3 agenda, was to return to Piazza Navona so Leonardo could sketch my portrait. We had admired his work the day before but did not have time to get the portrait done. He is an amazing artist, and I was thrilled with the end result. From the Piazza, we walked a few blocks away (knowing the best food would be off the beaten path) to Bar del Fico. We were told they only had lasagna as the kitchen was closed. It made our choice very easy, yet we were all thrilled at the Broccoli Lasagna that was some of the best we have ever had.

Our next destination were the old Roman ruins (Centro Archeological); however, we found some great shopping along the way. First, I found an incredible pair of Italian boots at Autentic by Simone. Then, we found Italy’s largest fabric store, Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti where Massimo (aka Fred) help us select the perfect fabric for Katie to design and make her very own wedding was so much fun and an experience none of us will ever forget. We were thrilled we could be a part of that with her.

After the shopping spree, we finally arrived at Centro Archeological, which was ancient Rome’s ‘Times Square.’ We were there at the perfect time of day, as the sun was setting we walked in the footsteps of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and St. Paul. This area was the civic core of the city with highlights including the arches of Titus, Constantine and Severus. Absolutely amazing!

After soaking in the statuesque history, we walked to Via del Corso, which is a popular shopping street. We window shopped our way to a side street where we found a lovely Italian restaurant. We toasted another wonderful Italian day and took a cab back to our hotel.

As we said goodbye to Roma, we reminisced about our incredible journey back in time to visit the history and wonder of the Roman empire. Definitely a Girls Getaway like no other. Next stop: Florence!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Girls Getaway to Rome - Day 2

The priority for our second day in Rome was to see the Vatican, which includes St Peter’s Basilica (photo), the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. A country itself, residence of the Pope and home base for the Catholic Church, the Vatican draws hundreds of thousands of people every year. First, we visited the Egyptian Museum with rare artifacts from ancient Egypt, including a very well-preserved mummy. There is so much to see here in the museums...I could write a book!

Next stop: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling. In 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to fresco the 12,000 square feet of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. The job took four years, and the artist spent most of that time painting the 343 frescoes on his back on a scaffold. The various sections of the ceilings represents the Book of Genesis, which depicts the creation of man until the birth of Jesus. In the center of the room, you will see the famous depiction of God giving life to Adam. Other sections depict Noah Stories, Adam & Eve Stories and The Creation. After learning of a special exit from the chapel, we made our way to the overwhelming St. Peter’s Basilica, which was completed in 1626, where we stood in awe of the world of Catholicism. With Renaissance artwork and craftsmanship, we well as the history of a millennia of popes, one cannot spend time in this space without feeling a sense of worship, history and grandeur. It is a huge building that makes you feel like a dwarf inside.

We walked through the Piazza San Pietro, which is the site where the Pope appears every Sunday at 11 AM at the window of The Vatican Palace, as well as special commemorations, masses and beautification ceremonies. It was completed in 1667 after 11 years of work; it can hold 400,000 people and is decorated with more than 140 statues of saints and martyrs. The Piazza is even more awe-inspiring than what you see on television.

After hours at the Vatican City, we walked to the Pantheon a vast dome constructed to honor all pagan gods and measures 141 feet high by 141 feet wide. It was the largest ever designed until the 20th century and the best preserved and continually used building of imperial Rome. It serves as one of the city’s important burial places for Raphael, as well as two of Italy’s 19-century kings. After we gazed inside (and above at the top of) the Pantheon, we walked across the plaza to enjoy some gelato al fresco. We all sat back and wondered if life could get any better....ancient Rome, gelato, some vino and great friends. Ahhh...

After the gelato, we were ready to walk again.....this time our target was the popular Piazza Navona. On the way, we found a wonderful store with limoncello, pasta, olive oil and more. Javi was kind enough to treat us to several rounds of limoncello shots, and we hated to leave the store empty handed, so we bought some limoncello. Located at the heart of the historic center, Piazza Navona is considered by many to be the City’s most glorious piazza (plaza) that showcases the baroque age at its best. Inside the piazza, you will find tons of artists, beautiful fountains, street performers and visitors enjoying gelato. Lining the pedestrian-only piazza are gorgeous flowers, cafes, restaurants, churches and boutiques.

From Piazza Navona, we meandered through boutique-lined, brick streets (and shopped at leather stores and vintage boutiques) until we arrived at the Tevere River that runs through Rome. From the river, we walked south on Via Giulia, a popular street lined with regal palaces and still home to Rome’s most popular families. At the end of Via Giulia, we arrived at our friend Ace’s “home away from home” as she has been living in Rome for two weeks. After enjoying some limoncello, great conversation, photos from the penthouse balconies and seeing Ace’s Go Go Girls, we walked to Palazzo Spada for another incredible Italian meal. Fantastico!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Girls Getaway to Rome - Day 1

After a Mother/Daughter joint Girls Getaway to Colorado in 2010, we (my mom and I) started planning our Italy trip with Donna (my mom’s college roommate) and her daughter, Katie. After two years of planning and trying to coordinate schedules, we set the dates for a multi-city tour of Italy. First stop...Rome.

We landed in Rome around 10 AM and made our way to our hotel, Silva Torlonia, via taxi. After a quick nap and visit with Donna and Katie, we boarded the metro en route to The Colosseum, which is one of the seven wonders of the world. Our best investment was a Roma Pass, which is a three-day pass for 20 Euro and is good for unlimited use of buses, trams and the metro. Plus, it includes free admission to several museums (including The Colosseum) and allows you to get to the front of the line. Legend has it that as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand; and when Rome falls, so will the world. So we were thrilled to see the Colosseum standing in all of its glory at 500 feet wide and 161 feet high. Construction on The Colosseum, which is an enormous amphitheater, was started by Emperor Vespasian and inaugurated by Titus in the year 80 A.D. It has 80 entrances that would filter its more than 50,000 attendees into the building who were seated according to class. It even has a VIP section for political and religious dignitaries. Once inside we were able to see the wooden platform that the gladiators fought on, along with the labyrinth maze that was underneath the platform where they housed tigers, prisoners, and other show participants.

After our Colosseum tour (and one great group photo), we took a brief walk up the hill to the Oppio Caffe that overlooks The Colosseum. We lucked out with a window seat (we would have sat outside but it was lightly raining) and all got the Appetizer Buffet for 10 Euro (all you can eat one time visit to buffet plus one cocktail/wine).

After we ate, we made our way to the beautiful Trevi Fountain, which is the largest Baroque fountain in the city (85 feet high and 65 feet wide) and most would say the most beautiful in the world. According to legend, visitors who throw a coin into the fountain are assured they will return to Rome. An estimated 3,000 Euro are thrown into the fountain each day. A few blocks away from the fountain, we found the Spanish Steps, which is a monumental staircase (and widest in Europe) of 138 steps built in 1717. After hiking to the top of the steps, we caught a cab back to our hotel and turned in for the night. Tomorrow we tackle the Vatican City!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Girls Getaway to Italy

There's nothing like a tour of Italy's finest to rev your taste buds and help you find your inner Italian chef. With Rome, Milan, Florence and Venice on the list of places to visit, we are sure to have one amazing trip!

Follow us on this Mother/Daughter Girls Getaway via Twitter and Facebook!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Getaway Girl Featured in Inside Polk Magazine

Inside Polk is proud to be Polk County, FL's magazine that offers exciting stories and out-and-about features that you do not want to miss.

Check out the feature travel article in the February issue. To read the full article, click here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Win Free Stuff Returns For Spring 2012

It's back! By popular demand....the Girls Getaway Guide's Win Free Stuff! That's right, everyone loves to Win Free Stuff, and the Girls Getaway Guide helps ladies win free stuff that will make their next Girlfriend Getaway even better.

This Spring, we have three prizes:
1) Sex and the City Hotspots Tour From On Location Tours
2) A "" Personalized Novel
3) Costa Rican Adventure Excursion

All you have to do to enter to win is visit Girls Getaway Guide website and fill out the form. Someone is going to win these great may as well be you!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Submit Your Photo: Girlfriend Getaway to San Diego

Angela Newell submitted this photo of her special Girls Getaway to San Diego.

She writes: "The Sole Sisters - Angela Newell, Kim Hancock and Jennie Walker - participated in the 2011 Susan G Komen 3 Day for the Cure in San Diego from Nov 17-20. Our Families met us at closing ceremonies and we all spent Thanksgiving on the Pacific Ocean! A journey and experience we will never, ever forget. We walk because we can. We walk because we believe. We walk because Everyone deserves a lifetime."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spring Break Travel Deals - Daytime TV Show

Whether you are looking for snow or sand, The Getaway Girl has some great Spring Break Travel Deals that are sure to make you want to book that trip and go! To watch the segment, click here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spectacular St Patrick's Day Celebrations

A holiday with plenty of historical significance, St. Patrick's Day has stretched beyond its home country of Ireland to Irish expatriates (and those who just want to be Irish for a day) the whole world over. It's a time for festive partying, dancing in the streets, celebrating with food and drink, and generally having a rollicking good time. Dress in green, grab a shamrock, and experience a little luck of the Irish at these great St. Patrick's Day celebrations!

Home to North America's largest St. Patrick's Day parade, New York City is always an exciting place to visit. Although NYC is used to celebrating the various heritages of its diverse population, the St. Patrick's Day parade is the city's most popular annual parade. You'll see more than just Irish pride here, though there's plenty of that to go around, too. Upwards of 150,000 people march in the parade every year, and millions of people turn out to watch the event.

Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The longest-running parade in North America can be found at the heart of this French-speaking province. Although it may seem unusual that Quebec can make such a claim, it's not as strange as it sounds; some people estimate that about 40% of people in Quebec are of Irish heritage. If you see Montreal on St. Patrick's Day, you won't question the amount of Irish pride shown here every year. Just be aware that Montreal is still very cold in March. If you dress warmly and brush up on your French (most people here speak English too), you can have a great holiday experience here. Just a few hours and you will feel as though you are in Europe...great town!

Hot Springs, Arkansas
The world's shortest street plays host to the world's shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade in this historic Arkansas town. Don't come here expecting tradition, but if you have a great sense of humor and you don't mind an unusual good time, you can see some one-of-a-kind sights like a troupe of "Irish bellydancers" decked out in sparkly green costumes and (as if that wasn't enough sparkle) the "Irish Order of Elvi," a group of Elvis impersonators getting in touch with their inner Irishmen. After the parade (and with a name like this, it won't take long), join the Pub-Crawl and end the holiday with a rollicking good time.