Highlights from visits to Venice, Florence, Rome, Barcelona and Madrid.

In October 2015, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy and Spain for two weeks. I want to share some highlights of the trip, which focus on sights and food.

Venice

My October 2015 European vacation began in Venice, Italy. We flew from San Francisco to New York, then took an overnight flight from New York to Venice. With weary eyes, we checked into our hotel, then went for a walk. This is one of the first photos I took on the vacation. Really happy to catch the reflection in the water.

When in Venice, do as the tourists. In other words: take a ride on a gondola. Our guide took us through some of the back alleys of Venice.

Sunset in Venice.

Florence and Rome

View of the Arno River, as seen from the second floor of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. In the gallery, I fought through the crowds to see Botticelli’s painting “Birth of Venus.”

St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, as seen from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica. When we visited, Pope Francis had recently completed his visit to the United States. We didn’t see him :-)

The Sistine Chapel was a sight to see. These visitors are en route.

My favorite site on the vacation: the Roman Colosseum.

The sun doesn’t set on The Roman Empire, but it does set on the city of Rome. As seen from the rooftop of our hotel, The Independent Hotel.

Barcelona and Madrid

Much of Barcelona’s distinctive architecture is the work of the brilliant Antoni Gaudi. Here’s a photo of his most famous work, The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. Work began in 1883 and it’s still under construction today.

I took a tour of Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, home of the Real Madrid football club. The tour was fantastic. I got to see the locker of Cristiano Ronaldo and touched the 2014 Champions League championship trophy.

Growing up in New York, I enjoyed going to Giants Stadium to watch the New York Cosmos soccer team. Touring Real Madrid’s stadium brought back fond childhood memories.

The Food

On the train ride from Venice to Florence, we got off in Bologna to spend a few hours there. While in Bologna, you have to order the Spaghetti Bolognese!

My favorite meal of the trip: Spaghetti Carbonara in Rome. I savored every bite, then felt the need to take a nap (I stayed awake).

In the U.S., you buy pizza by the pie or the slice. In Italy, you buy by the pound. Here was our “to go” dinner one night in Rome. The one with the shrimp topping was my favorite.

Amazing tapas at Cervecería Catalana in Barcelona. Photo collage provided by my seventh grade daughter.

More tapas, this time from Quimet & Quimet in Barcelona. Washed down with a glass of the house red.

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