This is a post in my new “Awesome Photos” series.
My very first trip to Europe was to Italy in the autumn of 2005. On that trip, I visited Rome, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast — and I fell in love. With the food, the history, the architecture, the culture… (I could have done without the cat-calling Italian men, of course, but I suppose that's just part of the culture, too).
After a week in Italy, I vowed that someday I would go back and see more of the country.
It took me nearly a decade to return to Italy, however; I didn't go back for a second time until 2013. But that second trip was just as good as the first — maybe even better.
Here are 22 of my favorite photos from my second trip to Italy, highlighting some of my favorite destinations and experiences:
The Grand Canal in Venice
Venice is everything you've heard about it — and yet completely different at the same time. Yes, it's crowded and confusing and maybe a little bit smelly. But nothing compares to crossing a bridge over the Grand Canal for the first time.
Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
Birthplace of art and culture and the Italian Renaissance, Florence is a must-see in Italy. And for an unforgettable vantage point, head to Piazzale Michelangelo for views out over Florence (complete with Ponte Vecchio bridge) like this.
Ruins at the Roman Forum
Rome is obviously the center of the former Roman Empire — and some of the most impressive ruins can still be seen at the Roman Forum, including columns like these.
One of my favorite day trips from Venice was to some nearby islands (because Venice isn't the only island in the Venetian Lagoon!). This photo is of the main canal in Burano, a small island known for its colorful homes.
Inside St. Peter's Basilica
I don't care if you're religious or not — visiting St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City is a MUST in Italy. The massive church is filled with marble and gold and precious stones (most of it pilfered from other great empires of the world) and is nothing short of breathtaking.
Built by the Sienese during Siena's wars with Florence, Moteriggioni is a small fortified city in Tuscany with its medieval stone walls still partially in-tact.
Duomo di Siena
Italy has no shortage of impressive, jaw-dropping churches. And the Duomo in Siena is definitely one of these. This one dates back to the 1200s; I loved this part of its facade.
Spend time in Venice, and you will immediately be able to recognize its architecture. I love these buildings along the Grand Canal (gondola included, of course).
It's usually crowded, but St. Peter's Square in Vatican City is still worth stopping by.
Florence Duomo from afar
This photo — with Florence's Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore dominating the scene — was also shot from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Inside the Roman Colosseum
The Colosseum is an Italian icon recognized worldwide. But have you seen it from this vantage point before? This photo was snapped from the highest remaining level of the ancient amphitheater.
Wine tasting in Chianti
No trip to Italy would be complete without wine tasting. This tasting table was set up at a small, family-owned winery in the Chianti wine region, and we tasted wine and had dinner as the sun went down over the vineyards. Blissful doesn't begin to describe it.
The laundry on the line makes this one of my favorite photos from Italy, I think. It was shot on the island of Burano.
In the summer months, it's common to see “traffic jams” of gondolas in Venice's canals. That's why this scene – of a long gondolier – caught my attention.
Can you name this city? It's actually Florence. I love the reflections of the buildings and clouds in the Arno River here.
In Rome, be sure not to skip the Pantheon. I love this shot because of the addition of the white-robed nuns in the front left.
Dining al fresco
This little cafe was spotted in the medieval town of Monteriggioni. It just screamed “Italy” to me with the colors and overall ambiance.
Located in southwestern Umbria, Orvieto sits atop a volcanic bluff — making views from here especially dramatic.
A view from a dome
If you make your way to the Vatican, be sure to spend the extra time and money to climb to the top of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. From there, you get THIS incredible view out over the Vatican and Rome.
Famous for its Palio horse races and its UNESCO-protected historic center, Siena caught my eye because of its color — the muted browns and terracottas and oranges… they made for a great image.
Up close with gondolas
Here's an up-close look at gondolas on the Grand Canal in Venice. You can't just show up here and buy one — competition to become a gondolier is intense, and the right is often passed down from father to son.
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
Here's a closer look at Florence's Duomo. It's massive and makes you feel very, very small when walking beside it.
Which photo makes YOU want to go to Italy the most?
Choosing the photos to include in this made me feel the same way!