Dan Schlosser / travel /

Italy and Croatia, Summer 2016

Italy and Croatia, Summer 2016

Visiting Rome, Dubrovnik, Split, and Venice from June 01 to June 16, 2016.

After I graduated from College, I set out on the longest trip of my life to date. Two months, visiting twenty-four cities in eight countries. It wasn't my first time in Europe, but it was my first time visiting each city in my trip.

In travelling for so long, my trip really felt like four smaller trips, each two weeks. The first, I spent with friends in Italy and Croatia, the second by myself in France and Spain, the third with a friend in the UK, and the last with my mom in Iceland.

My original plan was to start in Barcelona, and make my way north and east, but after finding an amazingly priced ticket from Boston to Rome, I flipped everything around.


Tourist Central

Rome was by far the most overwhelming city I visited, and it was appropriate to be my first stop. I was only there for a three days, but I managed to to pack in a crazy amount of sightseeing, shopping, and tasting in that time.

I spent my entire first day in Rome at the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica. Even so, there was plenty I didn't get to see. What I did see, though, was completely stunning.

Rome vatican hallway
The Vatican Museum was completely packed with tourists from all over.

The Vatican Museum is one big loop. If you go quickly, you could probably get through the whole thing in four or five hours, but if you take your time, it can easily take more than a day. For the most part, it was packed. However, there was an occasional side room or two that would be more calm.

The path leads through many different time periods and collections: sculpture, tapestry, cartography, and more. It's a stunning reminder of how powerful the Roman Empire was.

Rome vatican table
This table was just one of many stunning pieces of art along the path to the Sistine Chapel.
Rome vatican globe
A 1500s globe, covered in beautiful illustrations.
Rome vatican goose
These three sculptures are a great example of how well the curator positioned and grouped pieces to tell a story. The center sculpture is aptly named "Boy with Goose."
Left: This amazing metal globe sits in the center of the Vatican Museum courtyard. Right: The facade of St. Peter's Basilica, next to the Vatican.

I spent the majority of my time in Rome visiting all the touristy hot spots. With only a few days, that was all I had time for. (That and lots of pasta, mind you.) The Colosseum was really stunning, and is still is the centerpiece of Rome. Wandering around, I always ended up bumping back into it.

Although it's beautiful enough from the outside, I also got an opportunity to tour the inside in a nighttime tour. While it was probably overpriced, it was neat to get to go into the basement of the building and see where they kept the animals, food, and sets. I didn't know this before touring, but apparently the Romans had a knack for exotic sets for their battles and had even designed a contraption to raise combatants up through a trap door in the arena into battle. An ancient elevator!

Rome colosseum dusk
A view of the Colosseum at dusk.
Left: The Colosseum from up close. Right: An interior view of the Colosseum during a nighttime tour.

When it comes to amazing architecture, the Colosseum isn't all Rome has. The Altar of the Fatherland and the Pantheon were both extremely impressive works of art.

Rome altar
The Altar of the Fatherland sits in the center of Rome.
Rome pantheon
A frontal view of the Pantheon, a temple with one massive circular room.


A Fortress on the Water

After visiting Rome, we headed across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia, where we visited Dubrovnik and Split. After Croatia I would actually fly back to Italy to see Venice, but it was actually more affordable to fly out of Italy and back in.

Dubrovnik was probably the biggest surprise of my entire trip. I didn't have very high expectations for Croatia. I hadn't heard much about it, but a few strong recommendations from friends put in on my list. That said, it was definitely a highlight of my trip: beautiful cliffsides, beaches, and towns, inexpensive food and amenities, and friendly people.

We spent most of our time in Dubrovnik, which is centered around the "Old Town," a pedestrian-only commercial district. The city sits right on the ocean, with tall stone walls built on top of the rocks.

Dubrovnik airbnb
The view of Dubrovnik from our Airbnb.
Dubrovnik city
A view of the Dubrovnik Old Town from the city walls.
Left: The Dubrovnik Old Town is pedestrian-only. Right: The five of us on the Old Town walls.

The food in Dubrovnik was also amazing. After touring the Old Town walls, we ate an amazing meal of fresh fish down by the docks.

Dubrovnik port
We had dinner under the umbrellas by the Dubrovnik docks.
Left: The fresh fish in Dubrovnik was amazing. Right: Dubrovnik's famous Black Risotto is super salty, but delicious!

A few days into our stay, we rented a private speedboat tour of the nearby islands. It sounds excessive, but the entire day (five hours plus time for lunch on Island restaurant) only ran us €50 each. Our guide picked us up at a nearby beach, and took us to several islands, where we got a chance to swim in caves, hike trails, and relax.

Dubrovnik beach
A View of the beach across the street from our Airbnb.
Left: A view of the coast from the boat. Center: A tower on an island off the coast of Dubrovnik Right: A boat moored off the coast.

I would highly recommend visiting Dubrovnik to anyone interested. It wasn't as historic or magnificent as Rome or Venice, but it was beautiful and relaxing. After the intensity of my first stop it was exactly what I wanted.

Dubrovnik walls
On my last day, I walked up to the guard tower to get a full view of the city walls.


A Beautiful City Three Hours North

After a few days in Dubrovnik, we rented a car and drove three hours up the coast to Split, a larger coastal city with another pedestrian-only Old Town. The drive was amazing. You can get to Split from Dubrovnik by highway in about 2.5 hours if you wanted, but it's worth every minute to take the D8, a parallel route that winds along the coast.

Split drive
A view of the Croatian beach from the D8 (the coastal highway).
Left: Four of us at the entrance to the Split Old Town. Right: The tower in the Split town center.
Left: The Split Old Town on a cloudy day. Right: Daniela and I shared a drink at a hilltop bar in Split.


Just Feet Away From Becoming Atlantis

Visiting Venice was amazing. It was certainly more touristy than Dubrovnik, but it lived up to the hype. It's small enough and dense enough that a good majority of my time there was spent wandering around the city, counting bridges, canals, and gelato shops.

We visited the tourist attractions: St. Mark's Square, Basilica, and Tower, but most of the time was spent exploring and wandering into smaller shops.

Venice canal
A Venice canal. While many were even larger than this, most were quite narrow, barely two boats wide.
Venice view
Shots of Venice from the Campanile di San Marco. From this height, Venice's canals disappear.
Venice gondola
A quintessential gondola-in-canal shot.
Venice canal building
So many of Venice's buildings are designed with prominent canal-side entrances
Left: Me at Acqua Alta Bookshop. When the canal floods, they just let the books get wet and dry themselves out. Right: Daniela tries out their staircase made of wrecked books!

To get the full Venice experience, Daniela and I took a gondola ride. Even for just a half hour, it was completely worth it. Watching the gondolier duck under bridges and kick off walls was awesome.

Left: Our gondola barely fit under the bridges. Right: Venice's version of rush-hour.
Venice motorboat
Not everyone on the canals were gondolas. It remains a primary transit system for Venice.
Left: Amazing pasta made while you wait at Del Moro's. Right: We had tea and pastries standing at the counter in South Venice.
Venice old bridge
Me sitting on the oldest standing bridge in Venice.