Small dog in Venice infront of Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore

Explore Venice with your Dog – Part 1 | Dog Travel Italy

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”  ~ Truman Capote

For Tikka’s three day visit to the capital of the Veneto region of Northern Italy,  Venice was like eating a box of dog biscuits in one go. Where else in the world can you walk through every single street of a bustling city, without a single car or bike stopping you and your dog at every corner? It’s a dogs playground with all the new sights, smells and noises to take in and many Piazza pigeons to put in their place.

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Ponte dell’ Accademia over the Grand Canal

After a long drive up through Ravenna and along the coast from our overnight in Assisi we looked forward to parking our car and spending some time on foot and on the water. Vehicles are completely banned from the islands that make up Venice, so you need to make arrangements to park your rental cars for your time here. There are multiple garages only a short water taxi distance from your hotel, or you can park on the other side of the lagoon and take a longer ride across the open water. We chose the Venezia Tronchetto Parking structure and it couldn’t have been easier. Clearly marked, lots of parking and only 20 Euros per day. Bye bye car!

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If only all taxis were this stylish…

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On our way to our Venice hotel

We had our hotel book a water taxi for us, and we called to let them know that we were parked and ready, and our sleek water chariot arrived within 10 minutes to whisk Tikka and us to the canals. She was a little unsure of the boat situation as water is not really her thing, but she quickly curled up on the comfy leather seats and watched the view out the windows. Once again, incredibly dog-friendly. There are no issues with dogs taking any private or public boats in Venice.

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Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute on the Grand Canal

 

A quick drop off of our bags after pulling up to the hotel and we hit the streets, eager to start exploring, get our bearings and find the famous Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). Within 1 minute we were lost. Expect this on your first trip out the door and just go with it. You will eventually start to figure out the streets and remember some distinct corners and alleyways to make your way around, but for your first time, just take a deep breath and enjoy being ‘lost’ in a fantastic world of tiny shops, hidden courtyards and out of the way cafes. You can always turn on Google maps…

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We wound our way to the wide promenade of Riva delgi Schiavoni which lead us straight to St. Mark’s Square. The crowd was busy but manageable and we knew we’d be back early morning to have the place more to ourselves. One tip, don’t stop for drinks or food in the cafes that surround the Piazza, unless it’s your lifelong dream to have a 14 Euro cup of regular black coffee. As with all of Italy, the cafes and restaurants in Venice welcome canine travelers and there are throngs of places to eat, drink and relax with your dog beside you, at a fraction of the surcharge for stopping by a landmark.

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St. Mark’s Square complete with Tikka, wedding and pigeons.

Back out on the promenade we found Giardini Reali, a great little grassy park next to the S. Marco Vaporetto stop (public ferry). For a dog that lives in a rainforest (West Coast of Canada), Tikka had some adjusting to do in Venice as public parks that contain any green are very few and widely spread apart from each other. We jotted down some of the parks before we arrived in each city and used this as a loose walking guide, making a note on which ones were close to our hotel for night time relief. It wasn’t so easy in Venice but Tikka adjusted by finding the smallest of weeds poking out from the stones to relieve herself.

 

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Giardini Reali

 

 

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Venetian Jack Russell in St. Mark’s Square

 

We were greeted by a good number of friendly Venetian off-leash dogs as we took our evening stroll back to our hotel. All happy to say hi to the little Canadian dog visiting their home, giving her tips on how to find the parks and which pigeons to chase.

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The Venice sunset is extra special with your dog

This is the first of a two-part post on visiting Venice with your dog as we walked many a street, crossed many a canal and visited many a gelato stand. Up next, we visit the main sights of Venice, explore some less visited areas and Tikka decides that pigeons aren’t so great after all.

Just found our roundup of traveling through Italy with a dog? Catch up on our Dog Friendly Travel Page and our visits to Florence, Rome, Amalfi Coast and more!

 

 

 

Small black dog in Assisi Umbria Italy

Overnight at Assisi with your Dog | Dog Travel Italy

Driving from the Amalfi Coast to our next multi-night city stop in Venice is a long haul for humans (although Tikka could manage the extended nap with no problem) so we broke up the drive with a one night stay in Assisi, in the Umbria region of Italy. It was an early start to the 5 hour drive from our temporary coastal home in Ravello as we wanted to arrive with time to explore Assisi in the daylight and visit an incredibly well reviewed little wine bar. Leaving early also gave us time for a historic lunch stop in Monte Cassino, about 80 miles south of Rome.

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Rebuilt Monte Cassino Abbey

The Abbey at Monte Cassino is like opening a book from the ‘WWII blunders’ history book and walking across the page. This rocky hilltop sanctuary was unfortunately bombed by the allies following reports that German forces were occupying the monastery, but tragically only Italian civilians seeking refuge were killed in the air strike. Recognizing the significance of this wartime error, the abbey was rebuilt in 1964 and now stands as a reminder of the Battle of Monte Cassino. Although dogs are not allowed inside, the views and nature surrounding the site make for a great dog friendly stop to stretch the legs.

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One of many walking paths in Mount Aurunci Park.

Only a minute back down the hill from the abbey is the Polish WWII Cemetery, the final resting place for over 2,000 Polish soldiers that stormed the bombed out Abbey after Germans eventually took hold of it. This is a huge cemetery that is part of the Mount Aurunci Park, that offers sweeping vistas of the Lazio area and close up inspections of war ‘trinkets’ left behind.

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Polish Cemetery and Monte Cassino

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Well marked trail heads with adventure times included 🙂

A whole day could easily be spent filling your brain with history and walking the paths with your dog so we made a note to spend more time venturing further into the park on our next visit in this area. But for now, we had to hit the road to make it to our stop over town of Assisi for the night.

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Annual Peace March from Perugia to Assisi, heading down Via Beato Padre Ludovico da Casoria.

We arrived around 4 pm right in the middle of a massive peace march which blocked the road to the quaint hotel we were trying to get to. After we snuck down some back roads we came within 300 ft of the hotel gate and made a ‘sorry we are tourists’ gesture and joined the March for 2 minutes in our rental Jeep before turning into the hotel courtyard. After checking in we did a quick search and discovered this gathering was 100,000 strong, walking 24km from Perugia to Assisi and has been held annually from 1961.

It seemed like we faced all 100,000 people as we climbed the hill against the flow to the center of Assisi.

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Basilica of San Francesco

Once at the top of Via Beato Padre Ludovico da Casoria (say that fast three times…), we paused at the Basilica of San Franscesco and witnessed the late afternoon sun throwing a beautiful warm light over the valley below. Tikka even seemed to enjoy the sun was happy to take a break from navigating the crowds. Assisi is a prominent stop for many as it is the birthplace of Saint Francis, one of the Catholic church’s most famous saints, who preached sermons to animals and cast a watchful eye over all creatures. He also died here at the age of 44. Regardless of beliefs and whether or not you travel with your dog, this is a delightful stop when exploring Italy as walking the streets immediately transport you to the wonders of the 12th century. And the porchetta sandwiches and meringue from the tiny street side vendors make for a happy belly.

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Perched with the best spot to take in the valley view from atop Assisi.

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Piazza Inferiore di S. Francesco

 

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Meringue heaven.

Before coming to Assisi we read about a wonderful wine bar called Bibenda Assisi and the wonderful owner Nila, and knew we had to make a stop after the gushing reviews (how often do you see a 4.9 out of 5 rating?). This quick stop turned into many hours of chatting, discovering new wines and learning about her journey from the Ukraine to opening a business in Italy. This is what traveling is all about – a happy dog crashed out at your feet while you languish over wine, local cheeses and cured meats and chat into the evening with a new friend. Incredibly dog friendly we can’t wait to visit with Nila in future years!

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A new host at Bibenda Assisi. Thank you for visiting!

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Via San Francesco

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Little alley of Vicolo Frondini with the best-framed view.

The crowds had dissipated on our walk back to our beds and we had the bricks to ourselves as we wound through the streets chatting about the great day we had in yet another dog welcoming area of Italy.

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Welcoming sign in a local Assisi leather shop.

While you await our next Italy installment (Venice, yay!), catch up on the road trip so far on our travel page: Dog Friendly Travel

 

 

 

 

Visiting Ravello, a Canine playground | Dog Travel Italy

A feast for your eyes and a playground for your dog, Ravello is the place you go to relax while taking in the incredible views, wandering the hills and the winding pedestrian streets with your pup. Spend time with friends drinking beer, eating pizza and laughing into the night with your dog asleep next to you in one of the town’s charming restaurants. This hillside dwelling town on the Amalfi Coast is a fantastic dog friendly getaway and a perfect home base to explore the coastal towns or head over the hill to Pompeii for a day trip, only an hour away. But first, we need to get to this little hillside town.

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Driving along the Amalfi Coast and looking back at Positano.

Driving to Ravello is an adventure all by itself, and one to be embraced and not stressed about as it’s all part of the memories of a wonderful vacation. If you haven’t heard already, the narrow Amalfi Coast road is famous for it’s twists, turns and cliffs. Traffic is halted while buses maneuver around tight corners and you are constantly saying things like ‘That tour bus will never ever fit through there…‘ and ‘Aiieee, that’s just not possible!’ and ‘What the…there’s no room??!!’.

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Tikka at a hillside lookout, Ravello Italy.

If you don’t want to brave this first hand then it’s best to get a driver or take a bus and relax while looking out at the scenery and the car chaos, but we were not swayed by the stories and decided we’d go all in. Tikka was also up for the challenge, giving us a paws up and then napping the whole journey. We took our time and drove carefully in the daylight, learning to honk as we went through tunnels and leaving lots of room for cars in front of us in case they had to back up to make way for a truck.

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Marina di Praia and the steep road that takes you to this little cove.

There are many places to stop along the way and with stomachs rumbling and a dog needing a pee break from all that napping we decided to stop at a wee cove and grab some lunch. The road down to the water was a steep descent, clinging onto the side of the hill so we took it very slowly. Marina di Praia is a tiny village with a pebble beach and towering cliffs between the towns of Praiano and Conca dei Marini. Along with the beach goers and rental umbrellas, there are fishing boats and nets and we knew we were in for a yummy seafood lunch. Trattoria da Armandino didn’t disappoint and we happily dug into our fresh calamari while Tikka laid out in the warm sun, having a nap from all that, you guessed it, napping.

 

With our bellies full we started the car and headed back up the cliff to join the road and finish the last 30 minute leg of our drive. Describing Ravello with words would fall short of how magical and beautiful this pocket of Italy really is. So I present you with the first morning we awoke after our drive down from Rome. No dispute, this was the most incredible sunrise we ever witnessed. You win Amalfi Coast. We get it. You are a goddess.

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Sunrise over the Amalfi Coast looking out from Ravello.

And the beauty doesn’t stop as you explore the town with your dog throughout the day. Every angle reveals a gorgeous view, whether looking towards the houses and gardens dotting the hills or towards the sailboats bobbing along the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

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Hills of Pontone, view from Ravello.

 

The sun and the rain were playing a game of leap frog during our five day stay, but the wet stuff didn’t deter our daily adventures. We took Tikka to the gardens of Villa Cimbrone, built in the 11th century and extensively renovated in the 20th century and just popped into a cafe when the rain swept through for 3o minutes.

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Entrance to Villa Cimbrone. Big doors, little dog.

 

The gardens of the Villa are a great place to bring your dog with lots of shade and nice pathways to walk along and we took her off leash in a quiet area for a game of fetch to let her stretch her little legs.

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Tikka at the Avenue of Immensity, Villa Cimbrone Gardens.

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Entrance and Cloister to Villa Cimbrone

Most people come to stand at the edge of the Terrazzo dell’lnfinito (Infinity Terrace), 1200 feet above the water and possibly the best view in Italy. There are also numerous paths, rose gardens, statues to gaze at and a 5 star hotel to sit and sip a Limoncello at the pool lounge… and yes, it is dog friendly.

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Terrazzo dell’Infinito. Spectacular even on a cloudy day!

I was asked…what was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen in all my travels and I said the view from the Belvedere of the Villa Cimbrone on a bright winter’s day, when the sky and the sea were each so vividly blue that it was not possible to tell one from the other.’

Gore Vidal

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Pathway to Eve’s Grotto and Mercury’s Seat.

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Detail inside the Cloister, Villa Cimbrone.

One of our days was spent at Mamma Agata’s, a friendly family run cooking school at the edge of Ravello, with huge gardens and huge smiles. Mamma Agata started her career as a teenager and cooked for Humphrey Bogart and Fred Astaire at the wealthy house she was employed at. Jacqueline Kennedy also enjoyed her simple, traditional dishes made with local ingredients that grow sweet and flavourful under the Italian sun.

 

We picked up some great cooking tips for authentic Italian dishes but it was the experience of joining the family for an afternoon that made it so wonderful. We didn’t want to impose so we left Tikka to rest at our AirBnb, but we were quickly scolded upon arrival for leaving her behind and yet again we were reminded about how dogs are welcomed with open arms in Italy. Probably not a bad thing that Tikka skipped the cooking class as I sense she would have been stuffed silly with all sorts of goodies from the kitchen.

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Piazza Centrale and Duomo Ravello

If you are thinking of a trip to Italy with your dog, you won’t go wrong with planning a relaxing stay in Ravello. For more information, this is a good link for exploring the town and attractions. Also have a look at the video below from the Ravello Festival, showcasing the surroundings for their annual music festival. When you go, raise a glass of Limoncello in honour of all the wanderlust dogs that keep us company on our travels 🙂

 

Read more about our travels around Italy with our dog Tikka on our Travel Page

Dog Friendly Travel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pompeii Pup – Visiting the Roman Ruins | Dog Travel Italy

There are a lot of famous sites in Italy and with only a few weeks to explore a country with so much history and culture it’s hard to pick and choose what to spend time exploring and what you have to add to your ‘next time!’ list. When planning our road trip around Italy with our dog we were ecstatic to learn we could take Tikka to Pompeii with us (small dogs only), it quickly became a ‘this time!’ stop.

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View coming over the mountain to Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius looming in the background.

It was an amazing day, starting out early by meeting up with some good friends who joined us from England, then driving over a scenic, windy road taking us over the Amalfi coast mountains from Ravello, to descend on Pompeii as the gates were opening. By getting a jump on the crowds we were able to find parking close by, at the Piazza Immacolata entrance and beat the heat. For only a couple Euros we parked in front of a restaurant, listened for a couple minutes about how wonderful the food is there while we paid for the spot, used the washroom and bought some water and some guides.

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Guidebooks and water in hand – ready to explore Pompeii with our dog, Tikka.

Pompeii was an incredible Roman town of 11,000 inhabitants, locked in time by the destruction caused from a neighboring  volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, around 80AD. The spewing ash that erupted from the crater covered the town and preserved the people, structures and even the culture of the Pompeii citizens. Unlike visiting a museum or a smaller heritage site, you are fully immersed in the day to day life of an ancient time as the area is just so huge.

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Unfortunate citizens of Pompeii caught under the smothering blanket of volcanic ash.

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Our little historian.

Walking through the endless streets, you can pop into houses of all social classes and think back to what everyday life was like. Then stroll up a main street to visit the hub of activity at the forum or imagine the games at the amphitheater. There is even a brothel to walk through with a menu of various services painted on the walls for customers to choose from.

That is an incredibly brief run down of what you’ll discover and describing this town and what you’ll find could easily become a novel. Staying on point, this is about bringing your dog along for the visit. The site is extensive and could be exhausting for people and dogs on a hot, overcrowded day. We gave ourselves a 4 hour limit (including a lunch stop) which only scratched the surface but was enough to get a really good overview. It’s a lot of walking and stopping to check things out so not very strenuous on us or Tikka, but going in the middle of summer could drain your mental batteries pretty quickly.

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One of the strays inside the Pompeii ruins, well fed and taking a siesta.

 

Tips for taking your dog with you to Pompeii:

  • Bring water and a travel bowl
  • Dogs are allowed in the food court – eat before 12pm to avoid the lineups and to get a seat.
  • According to the PompeiiSites.org website, you are allowed to bring small dogs, but the guideline is not specific: Animals Big dogs are not allowed within the archaeological area. Animals who are permitted to enter the site need to be held with a leash, and taken in the arms of their owners when entering the buildings. In case visitors run into animals who are alone, please do not approach them.
  • Dogs must be carried inside the houses or closed in areas
  • Be diligent in looking out for strays. We saw 4 or 5 strays and just carried Tikka when we saw one to avoid any contact. This is their territory and respected their space.
  • Go early for less crowds
  • Mid June to Mid September has the highest temperatures – if you go during these weeks, go in the morning and make it a shorter visit

The second part of our day in this area deserves it’s own spotlight – we climbed Mt. Vesuvius and stared down into the belly of the beast that caused all this destruction…check it our here!

You can catch up on Tikka’s dog friendly road trip around Italy on the VanDoggo Travel Page.

 

 

 

 

Conquer Rome with your Dog Part 3 – Villa Borghese Gardens and Trastevere | Dog Travel Italy

Our last day in Rome was all about spoiling our little traveler and taking her somewhere she could stretch her legs and roll in some grass, and later to visit a dog friendly bakery we had heard about. (Catch up with these links for the Colosseum in Part 1 and Campo Fiori  Part 2).

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View of Rome looking west from the viewpoint at Viale del Belvedere.

Starting out just after sunrise we began our morning walk in a different direction, heading away from the Spanish Steps to ‘The People’s Square’ at the North East gate of Rome. The square has been turned into a pedestrian zone and right in the middle stands an Egyptian obelisk brought to Italy around 30BC. Originally the obelisk was erected at Circus Maximus but was excavated after falling and getting buried in debris during wars in the 6th century. This was our gateway to the gardens of Villa Borghese, the largest public park in Rome and our morning adventure.

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Man made lake and Temple of Aesculapius, Villa Borghese Gardens, Rome.

A short walk took us up Pincian Hill for a spectacular view over Rome and after stopping for a beat we headed into the middle of the park to find the dog park we were keen to explore. This morning walk was quickly turning into a highlight of our city visit and we silently thanked the Borghese family that had the foresight to turn over this 150 acre private garden to the public. It’s a sanctuary from the stone and concrete of the busy streets below, and you could feel the happiness of the local dogs around you. Grass! Trees! Shade!

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Fountain Cavalli Marini

The park is mostly known for it’s museums that are scattered over the 150 acres, but there is also a a cinema, a replica of Shakespeares’s Globe Theater and monuments galore to check out. There is even an equestrian area that was used during the 1960’s Olympics, what a gorgeous venue. We stayed focused and pointed ourselves towards the dog park, an easy walk on the wide, shaded pedestrian walkways.

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The ‘valley of dogs’ at Villa Borghese dog park

And holy dog biscuits batman, what a gorgeous dog park it is…A huge green area with gentle sloping hills and a beautiful path right down the middle creating a ‘valley of dogs’. There were all sorts of furry canine creatures playing and sniffing. Boisterous German Shepherds, snuffling Pugs, elegant Afghans and goofy Labradors. They all came for their morning off leash constitution with their owners. So many dogs, but all well behaved and with a space so big, there was something for everyone. Room to run, trees to sniff or benches to lie under. Yes, it was heaven and Tikka enjoyed meeting some new friends and running her heart out before crashing out in the shade.

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Gorgeous morning and green grass in the middle of Rome!

There was a plethora of garbage bins, so the dog poop was non existent from what we could tell. Everyone respected what a gift this place was and did their job keeping it tidy.

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Sign at the dog park, including a phone number for a vet.

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A ball is a ball no matter what country you are visiting.

After a good off leash play time, we made a loop back along another park path so that we could see more of the gardens and decided on a coffee break close to where we started our journey. La Casina Dell’orolgio is a cafe with a lovely patio perfect for a tired out pup and hungry people needing an espresso and some pastries. It was a quiet morning with a few other people enjoying the patio with their dogs, but we thought how crazy busy it would be in the height of summer as it would be a welcome shady stop for a cold drink.

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La Casina Dell’orolgio

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A golden customer on the patio.

The early afternoon took us on a walking trip back over the Tiber River to check out the Trastevere neighbourhood and have a late lunch. A mini adventure ensued when we tried to locate the tram to take us over, and by the time we found the line, we only had to go one stop. It was a short trip but Tikka can still claim she did it.

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Typical Trastevere doorway.

Trastevere is a great little area – At one time a bit of a secret place off the beaten track, it’s now been fully discovered by tourists, but isn’t as hectic and busy as the centre of Rome. There aren’t a lot of big attractions in the immediate area, so the tour buses are few and it’s more of a place to wander and take your time, exploring the cobbled streets and ivy lined buildings. Lunch was on our mind and ‘Da Enzo’ lived up to the reviews and became our best meal during our stay in Rome. Simple dishes but pure and fresh for the ol’ tastebuds. Do you even have to ask at this point? Yes, no problem to have the dog with you at the table.

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Having a mid day snooze at Da Enzo Restaturant.

At a bottle of wine and full bellies o’clock, we paid the bill and continued to wind our way around the streets with a destination in mind.. ‘Biscottificio Innocenti’. Rated as one of the top bakeries in Rome, we had to make a stop at this family cookie business.

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One of each please! Tasty treats at Biscottificio Innocenti.

We were warmly welcomed in as soon as we found the bakery.  The owner, Stefania, went straight for Tikka with a pizza cookie that was quickly offered as a token of friendship. Cultural and species divide was bridged.

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Tikka making a new friend, Stefania, over a pizza cookie.

Looking around, you could see ample evidence of Stefania’s love of dogs – paw print designs and dog photos on the walls. Not saying that this is a huge dog destination, it’s just a  great bakery with the nicest owners that love dogs and you know you have found a special little place to go with your furry travel companion.

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Dogs are welcome at this Trastevere bakery.

No lies here – we loaded up on cookies, filling a big bag so that we had lots to nibble on after meals with a cup of tea, for days to come.

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A small sampling of what we brought home with us. Put the kettle on.

The afternoon rounded out with a long walk over to the The Vatican, we must have covered 40,000 steps that day… Only humans are allowed inside the buildings, but St. Peter’s Square is completely open to bringing your dog and we found a nice set of steps to sit and observe all the people making their pilgrimage. They come for all reasons, personal faith, spiritual guidance or to mark off another amazing sight that Rome has to offer.

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Watching the crowds at St. Peter’s Square

 

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And that’s a wrap – Time to reflect and nap on our last day in Rome.

After a nice rest we called it a day and took the Metro (Subway) back to the Spanish Steps. We had Tikka’s muzzle handy in case it was required on the train, as that was something we read about before coming to Italy – having dogs muzzled on transit. No one seemed to adhere to this rule and it may be enforced more with big dogs. We kept her quiet on our lap and within 20 minutes we were home again, tired from a full day of walking and ready to open up our bag of baking. As we packed up our bags and gathered Tikka’s bits and pieces we chatted about everything we wanted to come back and see. This was not a one time only visit and we promised our little dog that she could romp in the gardens again one day soon.

So where to next? This may be the end of our three part series on exploring Rome with your dog, but our trip to Italy was not over yet. Coming up, we visit Pompeii with Tikka, climb Mt. Vesuvius and venture into Venice.