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Italian Road Trip – An Unscripted Adventure

Italian Road Trip – An Unscripted Adventure

Italian Road Trip, Photography by David Cole
Italian Road Trip, Photography by David Cole
Italian Road Trip, Photography by David Cole
Italian Road Trip, Photography by David Cole
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Italian Road Trip, Photography by David Cole

Take an epic, unscripted Italian road trip with the Cole brothers as they stray from the beaten path, absorb the local culture, and experience Italy.

It is not every day that the Cole brothers travel abroad, but when they do, they are sure to make every moment of their journey an epic adventure. David, Coastal Lifestyle’s Art Director, and brother Donald, a prominent Gulf Coast Real Estate Agent, share an understanding that travel is not just about sightseeing, it is about straying from the beaten path, absorbing the culture, and experiencing the lifestyle. It is the journey they embrace – solidifying the tightest bonds of brotherhood – always returning with colorful tales that captivate their audiences. David and Donald fill a room with life and excitement; why should their travels be any different?

Day 1 – Heart of Rome Walk, Campo De Fiori to the Spanish Steps

Their epic Italian road trip begins in one of the oldest markets in Rome, Campo de’ Fiori – literally translated “field of flowers” – is renowned for its fresh produce and dates back to the middle ages. The square is well known for its commercial street culture, where the surrounding streets bear the names of trades. Quaint cafes and shops fill the square by day, with pubs more prominent by night. The statue of Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher who argued that the Earth rotated around the sun, graces the center of the square. The piazza is also where Bruno met his fate for beliefs that did not align with Christian teachings.

Two blocks away is the long oval-shaped Piazza Navona built roughly 80 A.D., where the famous Fountain of the Four Rivers – the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi- sits. Built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the 1600s, the fountain symbolizes what was once known as the four greatest rivers: the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube, and the Rio de la Plata. “The fountain is highly detailed,” remarks David. “Pictures do not do it justice. The precision achieved using just hand tools is absolutely astounding.”

The Heart of Rome Walk continued to the Pantheon. “It is the oldest building in Rome that is still in use,” David continues. “It is incredibly well-preserved. What was interesting is how Rome has increased in elevation throughout the years. We had to step down to walk inside.”

The Pantheon’s massive columns are single pieces of stone, not segmented like Greek columns, and supported by enormous marble bases. Inside, the structure is rich and visually complex with geometric shapes in seemingly perfect alignment around the base, yet the dome itself aligns in such a way that it feels like it could rotate. The oculus provides the only source of light, except for a few light wells in the recessed areas and over doorways.

As their Italian road trip progressed, David and Donald continued following their unscripted plan. While walking through a brightly adorned small alley taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of nearby restaurants, they found themselves standing in Piazza di Trevi looking directly at the Trevi Fountain. “It was unbelievable! We were just walking down this beautiful alley, and then there it was, right in front of us – the Trevi Fountain,” says David. “Donald and I stood there in silence and just stared in disbelief. It was awe-inspiring.”

Fed by the Aqua Virgo aqueduct – once the primary source of freshwater for ancient Rome – the fountain sits at the junction of three roads. It depicts Neptune’s chariot led by Triton’s seashores. One seahorse is active while one appears submissive, representing the changing moods ocean.

Their day culminated with a visit to the Spanish Steps, one of the most photographed attractions in Rome. Once a place for artists to congregate, the Spanish Steps now serve as a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. It has the widest known staircase in Europe, making the steps a perfect location to sit and view the Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Old Boat), which resembles a beached ship.

Day 2 – The Colosseum

“The Colosseum is colossal, to say the least,” comments Donald. “You can almost hear the roar of 50,000 cheering fans when you walk inside.” The Colosseum is a captivating example of Roman engineering and architecture. Most famous for gladiatorial contests, the amphitheater also played host to chariot races, animal hunts, executions, battle re-enactments, and more. David notes, “It is a magnificent structure with such a gruesome history. It was both amazing and overwhelming at the same time.”

Just up the hill from the Colosseum, David and Donald took in the sites of Old Rome. “It was pretty darn cool,” David notes. “You could only see the old city the Colosseum in the background – you could not see a stitch of the new city. It was a great location to consider what life was like in early Rome. It was humbling to imagine their lives without the modern conveniences we take for granted.”

Day 3 – Vatican

Completed in 1481, the Pope wanted a private chapel within the Vatican palace and space for concaves to elect future popes. On the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel, scenes depict the lives of Moses and Jesus. The ceiling, reluctantly completed by Michael Angelo, represents nine scenes from the book of Genesis surrounded by a framework of prophets and other symbols and biblical scenes. “It was really cool because you could see how Michael Angelo’s style changed throughout the process. The first figures he painted were smaller with more elaborate scenes, and as he progressed through his work, you can see where he let go of the small detail instead opting for larger images,” David shares.

Day 4 – Pompei

Pompei – a city frozen in time. Once a thriving city is now preserved in volcanic ash. “It was amazing to see intact city streets, homes, and bathhouses literally frozen in time,” comments David. Archaeologists created plasters casts of victims as they lay the fateful day Mt. Vesuvius destroyed the city. “It was incredible to see life in motion through the casts; however, as a parent, it was also difficult to witness,” he continues.

Days 5 & 6 Sorento & Capri

Serene Sorento is all about the beauty of the Mediterranean. It is a coastal town seated atop cliffs with sweeping views of the water. “It was beautiful,” David notes. “It was one of the prettiest places we stayed. It is a great jumping-off place if you want to visit the Almafi Coast. Donald continues, “We took the ferry to Capri – the Blue Grotto is so dramatic – it is incredible.” The Blue Grotto is a dark cavern where the water glows electric blue as a result of sunlight passing through an underwater cave – a definite “must-see.”

Day 7 – Ravello & Almafi Coast

Ravello, situated above Almafi, is famous for its music festivals and iconic cliffside gardens. “The view of Almafi from the Ravello villas was intense – it was incredible,” notes David. Almafi is a beautiful, picturesque tourist town known for its beaches and boutiques and scenic views of beautifully colored homes jutting out of the mountainside.

Day 8 – Positano

Positano is a picturesque cliffside tourist village along Italy’s Amalfi Coast boasting panoramic views, cafes, beaches, shopping, and dining. It is a quaint village with strict building codes preventing the construction of modern structures. Because of the narrow streets and passageways, there is a lot of uphill walking.

The brothers, reflecting on their Italian road trip, agree that Italy is someplace everyone needs to go. It is a historical, architectural, and cultural trip bathed in beauty. The pristine coastline is reason enough to return.

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