22 Weeks | +14 lbs
Last October, literally days before I became pregnant, I had booked a surprise vacation to Italy for my husband’s 30th birthday. Little did I know, the vacation was to become our babymoon! Thankfully, the timing couldn’t have been better, during my second trimester! I’ve highlighted the sights, food and runs we experienced below. Note: I made reservations for all of our dinners at least one week in advance unless noted otherwise, and relied on Rick Steves‘ Italy travel guide as well as the internet for all of my research. My husband discovered Rick Steves’ audio guides three days into our trip, and we used them as well during the rest of our trip. I marked parts of our itinerary where we specifically followed parts of either Steves’ travel guide or audio guides with “TG” or “AG”.
DAY 1 – ROME
Sights: Roman Forum, Palantine Hill, Coloseum. We immediately purchased the Roma Pass, which costs €34 each, and expires 3 days after first use. It covers public transportation, comps two major sights, for which you also get to skip the lines, and offers discounts for other sights. As they are the most well known and expensive of the sights listed, we immediately used our pass that day for the Roman Forum, Palantine Hill and Colosseum, which are all considered one sight under the pass. We soon realized that the pass was well worth its cost, as the lines for the sights were really long!
Food: Luzzi, Ai Tre Scalini, Giovanni Fassi. Luzzi is a restaurant in walking distance from the Coloseum, and offers a variety of things on its menu including pizza. We had to order pizza on our first day in Italy, naturally! Our pies were pretty tasty, but they were a bit soggy, as if the ovens were hot enough yet, as we had lunch just as the restaurant opened for the day. Ai Tre Scalini was cozy wine bar with the most amazing and affordable dishes! It reminded me of many of the gastropubs we have in NYC minus the high prices and long wait. Giovanni Fassi was a gelateria my husband discovered a block away from our hotel, and offered the best gelato we had in Rome as well as the most affordable in Italy! For €1.60, I had three scoops on a cone, a steal we savored daily!
DAY 2 – VATICAN CITY/ROME
Sights: Vatican Gardens, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps. I had made reservations for a Vatican Gardens Tour, which cost €32 per person, included entry for the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, and was entirely worth the price. The gardens cover approximately 23 hectares (57 acres), which is most of the Vatican Hill, and there is no general public access to them. The gardens were beautiful, and, through the tour, we learned a lot about the history of the Vatican. We also saw where the the ex-Pope Benedict lives in the gardens. Our tour guide informed us of the short cut for tour groups only into St. Peter’s Basilica, which is free to enter, and our last stop in Vatican City before soaking up the glorious sun in St. Peter’s Square. We strolled to the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps after dinner despite my protests from being so tired, as both were near our dinner location. The sights would have been really romantic and beautiful had it not been for the heaps of loud teenagers and vendors, litter and cigarette smoke that could be heard, seen and smelled there.
Food: Pizzarium, Al Duello. Pizzarium is in walking distance from Vatican City, and was well-received on the internet as one of the top pizza places to try in Rome, so it was our first stop immediately after our early day in the Vatican. They offer uniquely-flavored, grandma style pizza that you purchase by the kilogram as opposed to the slice or pie. After you inform them of how much you want of each pizza, they even cut them up for you into bite size pieces. Al Duello was a really romantic seafood restaurant with really friendly and attentive service! My husband and I both ordered their gnocchi, mine served with fish, orange zest and cherry tomatoes and his served with shellfish–the gnocchi was perfectly prepared!
Run: 5 miles. On my husband’s lead, we went for an early morning run around the Roman Forum, Palantine Hill and Coloseum, which were even more magnificent with the sun rising behind them and without the tourists!
DAY 3 – ROME
Sights: Piazza Navona, Pantheon. Exhausted from the first two days in Italy, I opted to sleep in until nearly noon, which would never have happened before the pregnancy, whereas my husband woke up early to go for an 11-mile run. We walked along what was one of my favorite sights in Rome, Piazza Navona, a city square filled with live musicians, artists and vendors and in which the Four Rivers Fountain Gian Lorenzo Bernini stands at the center (TG, “Heart of Rome Walk”, p. 874). Our stroll ended at the infamous Pantheon (AG, Pantheon Tour).
Food: Colline Emiliane. Our dinner at Colline Emiliane was our favorite meal of the entire trip! The Bolognese restaurant is well-recognized by locals and travelers alike for its hand made pasta. My husband ordered the linguine with prosciutto and pumpkin ravioli, and I ordered the soup dumplings and fettuccine Bolognese. The pasta was light, delicate and perfectly prepared and the flavors were well-balanced. It was THE BEST pasta we had ever had in our entire lives, on a level above Babbo in NYC. The prices were reasonable, and we even considered ordering another pasta dish to share, but realized we would be over stuffing ourselves, which may diminish the dining experience.
DAY 4 – MOUNT VESUVIUS/POMPEII/NAPLES/ROME
Sights: Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii. I distinctly remembered my trip to Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano, and Pompeii, a city that was destroyed and buried in ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, as one of the highlights of my trip to Italy when I was seventeen. Just in case, I did a bit of research online to ensure that hiking Mount Vesuvius would be safe in both altitude and steepness for pregnant women–thankfully, it was! I booked a train to and from Naples from Rome a few weeks before our trip. From Naples, we took the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii Scavi, and hired a local cab driver to drive us to and from Mount Vesuvius, along with a few other tourists. We knew that it was still off-peak season, and a cab was our best bet to get to the volcano. The skies were relatively clear, but the base of the volcano was certainly cooler and windy. We hiked up to the top in about a half hour, stopping often to take photos along the entire way. The views were breathtaking, as the center of the steamy volcano could be clearly seen on one side and the Bay of Naples on the other. After a lovely lunch at a sunny outdoor cafe, we spent the afternoon exploring and learning about Pompeii (AG, “Pompeii Tour”).
Food: Pizzeria D’Angeli, Mamma Angela’s Trattoria. Since we had to make a connection in Naples to return to Rome, we decided to explore the city by foot. We quickly realized that it’s a seedy city, one in which I wouldn’t feel comfortable wandering solo, but, as Naples is the birthplace of pizza, we had to have a second lunch there! Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, and the famous pizzerias were closed for the day, but the margherita pie we shared at Pizzeria D’Angeli was delicious, and my favorite pizza that we tried in Italy! I planned dinner at Mamma Angela’s Trattoria knowing that the restaurant was next to the train station in Rome, as we’d be exhausted after a long day. We were served prosecco upon entry, which we both only took a sip of, the portion sizes were “American” and they had great service, all-in-all, it was a great pick for food to fill you up after a long day.
DAY 5 – ROME/FLORENCE
Sight: Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fior, or Il Duomo del Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, is one of the the most breathtaking sights that we saw during our trip. Construction for the Duomo started in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio, before the technology for the dome was even discovered, and was completed structurally in 1436, with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. We entered the basilica, which is free, and purchased tickets to visit the small museum in its basement and climb the dome, which costs €10 per person. A narrow set of stairs, for which visitors used to go up and down, circled up to the top of the dome. The climb was tight, crowded and took nearly a half hour–it was mostly Americans making the climb, and we joked that it must only be the Americans who are crazy enough to do so–but the panoramic views of Florence and the Tuscan hills that surrounded the city were worth the efforts! We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the pedestrian-friendly city by foot (AG, “Renaissance Walk”), and taking photos along the Ponte Vecchio at sunset.
Food: Trattoria Da Mario, Trattoria Sostanza, Grom. I had read a lot of positive reviews about Trattoria Da Mario prior to the trip, a small family-owned restaurant that is only open for lunch, was uber excited about the experience. Sadly, the experience missed our expectations. After a 20-minute wait at 2pm, after which we were slotted into a tiny table with another couple, we tried their Tuscan white bean soup, I ordered their pasta ragu and my husband had their Florentine steak. We found their food to be salty and my husband noted that the steak was chewy and not very flavorful. Dinner at Trattoria Sostanza, a well-received steakhouse, also left us underwhelmed. Even worse, both meals were significantly more expensive than the ones we had in Rome. The highlight of the day as our gelato at Grom! Florence is the birthplace of gelato, and Grom represented its city well, as our second favorite gelato experience of the entire trip!
Run: 6 miles. My husband having completed a long run a few days prior through Rome selected a part of his run to share with me before we left on our train to Florence that morning. We ran through the Villa Borghese Gardens, a landscape garden in the naturalistic English manner in Rome and the third largest public park in Rome. Having struggled with running (and sightseeing) through clouds of cigarette smoke until then, the runner friendly, smoke-free, green setting was a welcome change. If we had time for another run in Rome, I’d revisit the Villa Borghese Gardens!
DAY 6 – FLORENCE
Sights: Uffizi Gallery, Accademia. Having read about the insanely long lines at the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia, I booked reservations for both weeks before our trip, which may have cost a bit more but was well worth the price. Uffizi is one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western world, and where one can view the famous paintings of Giotto, Boticelli and Leonardo di Vinci (AG, “Uffizi Gallery Tour”). The Accademia was built for Michelangelo’s David (AG, “Accademia & Michelangelo’s David”).
Food: Mercato Nuovo, Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori, Edoardo. We bought sandwiches and dried pears for lunch at Mercato Nuovo, a large market teeming all kinds of tasty treats, from fresh pasta to limoncello to cheeses to fresh meats. My husband also tried a tripe sandwich at a street stall, as tripe is a Florentine specialty, but he paid for the street food, and suffered from diarrhea for the next two days. Our dinner at Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori was our favorite meal in Florence, as it’s a a restaurant that offers great pasta and friendly service! Edoardo was another favorite of ours, our favorite gelato! They hand made waffle cones in front of patrons, and the gelato was rich and creamy.
Run: 6 miles. We really enjoyed a sunset run before dinner along the Arno River and in the Cascine Park!
DAY 7 – SIENA/CHIANTI/SAN GIMIGNANO/PISA
Sights: Siena, Chianti, San Gimignano, Pisa. After finding out that the only place we could rent a car in Florence as at the airport, and many of the small towns we wanted to visit restricted non-residential parking to outside of the towns’ perimeter, we decided to book Walk About Florence’s “Best of Tuscany Tour.” The guided tour, which cost €90 per person, included a guided morning tour of Siena, lunch at a vineyard in Chianti, of which 95% of the foods and wines we ate were produced at the vineyard, a visit to San Gimignano, which boasts a 4-year gelato world champion and Pisa, where we took plenty of creative photos of the Leaning Tower of Pisa under the setting sun. The day was my favorite part of the Florentine leg of our trip! If I were to return to Italy, I’d want to stay in a small Tuscan town for an extended period of time.
Food: Fattoria Pogio Alloro, Gelateria Dondoli, Trattoria da Georgio. At Fattoria Pogio Alloro, the vineyard where we had lunch in Chianti, they prepared beef ragu from their grass-fed cows, paired it with their hand made wheat penne, served prosciutto, cheeses and greens from their cows and garden, served plenty of their own extra virgin olive oil and wines, and ended the meal with almond cantucci dipped in a dessert liqueur. My husband and I only had a sip of each wine, and I would love to revisit again to truly indulge post-partum! Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano was recognized as gelato world champion in 2006-2009. I really enjoyed their saffron and nociola flavors, and loved that owner of the shop stood outside to take photos with all the patrons and their scoops of gelato. We returned to Florence just in time for dinner, and had read positive reviews about Trattoria da Georgia, a no-reservations restaurant near our hotel. The trattoria was the worst meal of our trip, so terrible that I won’t go into what we ate.
DAY 8 – FLORENCE/VENICE
Sights: Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Basilica, Piazza San Marco. We arrived in Venice by train, checked into our hotel, and immediately the Vaporetto, which is Venice’s public ferry, and costs €7 for an hour access. We loved following Rick Steves’ “The Grand Canal Cruise” (AG) along the ride to Piazza San Marco. Once we docked, we visited St. Mark’s Basilica, which is free, walked around the piazza and shopped for glass-blown goods.
Food: Osteria Ai Artisti. This was our favorite meal in Venice. We enjoyed all the seafood delights that Venice had to offer–seafood antipasti, fritto misto, and hand made pasta with shellfish in white wine sauce! The restaurant is charming and cozy, but we had plenty of space away from the conversations at other tables, which was uncommon on our trip.
Run: 5 miles. Before boarding the train to Venice, we had a time to go on another run along the Arno River one last time.
DAY 9 – VENICE
Sights: Rialto Market, Rialto Bridge, Murano, Burano. We spent the morning running, showered, and then took the Vaporetto to visit the Rialto Market and Rialto Bridge. After a quick bite, we hopped back on the ferry to spend the afternoon exploring the islands of Murano, famous for its glass blowing factories, and Burano, known for its colorful houses and lace shops.
Food: Osteria alla Testiere. I had anticipated dinner at Osteria alla Testiere, a small 1-Michelin starred seafood restaurant that is difficult to make reservations for, for the entire trip, but was sadly disappointed. The service was lacking, they mixed up our dishes, and the dishes were either overcooked or forgettable. Thankfully, the gelato we had near our hotel afterward made a lasting impression as the last food we had in Italy.
Run: 5 miles. My husband and I started our runs together, but parted ways at mile 3, when continued to run around Venice for 15 miles total, and I turned around back toward our hotel. Venice is comprised of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges, and is the most confusing place I’ve ever run. I truly thought I’d get lost on the run! Thankfully, our hotel was near the Ferrovia station, which is the main station for the Vaporetto, and I was able to find and follow signs back to the hotel.
Week 19 (3/2-8) training: 8 miles
Sunday: 3 miles
Friday: 5 miles
Week 20 (3/9-15) training: 18 miles
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday: 6 miles
Thursday: 6 miles
Week 21 (3/16-22) training: 19 miles
Tuesday: 3 miles, yoga
Saturday: 16 miles