Tuesday, October 20, 2009

PS - here's a list of all the flavours of gelato I had...

  • Hazenut
  • Raspberry
  • Vanilla
  • Banana
  • Strawberry
  • Lemon
  • Toffee
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Chocolate Orange
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Cream (but they call it fiordilatte, which sounds much fancier)
  • Ferrero Rocher
  • Peach
  • Panna Cotta
Plus, tartufo twice :)

Venice - the best city in Italy

Time for one more blog entry with the last details of our trip...

We went for a nice dinner in Verona, getting all dressed up and ordering LOTS of food.  After that, it was back to the hotel before getting up early in the morning to head over to Venice.  Our train ride was uneventful, which was nice.  We got a map so we could find our hotel and heading out of the train station to catch the vaporetto (the water bus.)  We checked in - our room was already ready for us so we dropped our bags and headed out to Piazza San Marco.  It was quite the site.  Most of the one side was under water because the tide had recently come in so there were raised boardwalks for people to walk on - though, some people wadded through the puddles with rubber boots.  We found the line for the basillica and headed in.  It was quite the sight to see, the ceilings are all in mosaics, mostly with gold backgrounds.  Sadly, no photos of the inside so you'll just have to google it.  After that, it was into the Doge's Palace.  It was amazing how HUGE and extravagant it was.  The ceilings were absolutely amazing and it's just mindblowing to realize that it was built in the 12th century.  Then it was time for some lunch and a trip up to the Rialto bridge!

Happily, Venice was pretty empty of tourists (though there were still a LOT) so it didn't take long to make our way to the front of the bridge.  It was a really beautiful view, down the Grand Canal with all the gorgeous old buildings going down either side.  We stood there for quite a while, just admiring the scenery and watching the gondolas and vaporettos make their way up and down the canal.  After that, I wanted gelato from a place I read about in the book but we couldn't find it on the map and decided to just wander instead.  The nice thing about Venice is that even though there are tonnes of little streets and it is easy to get lost, they put signs up on the buildings with directions to the major tourist attractions.  After a bit of wandering, Kevin decided we should follow the signs for the one attraction and we wandered through little street after little street for quite some time until we stumbled upon the gelato place I was reading about!!  Kevin tells me that was serendipity and that it was not fortuitous but I all I know is that I had some really good gelato (peach and panna cotta, yum...)  We kept walking and finally arrived at our mystery location - the train station.  Yup, we walked to the train station.  While a bit disappointing, the walk was beautifuly and we now knew exactly how to get there in case we needed to walk.  After that, we wandered back to the hotel and relaxed a bit before dinner.  Venice has a tonne of seafood so Kevin was pretty excited about the dinner prospects.  Our dinner was tasty but it took forever! 

The next morning, after breakfast being delivered to our room, we went out to explore again.  It was FREEZING (even Kevin was cold) but we went up to the Jewish Ghetto to take a look.  Then, it was time for lunch and more wandering and some shopping for Murano glass!  We found some really beautiful glass but you had to be really careful that were you were buying genuine Murano glass, not fake stuff from China.  I had a lovely older fellow explain exactly how to tell you were getting the real stuff.  He showed me how to look at the beads to see the silver inside and compare them to make sure they were all different.  Then he showed me how he has to put a little tag on each piece that matches the tag on the piece with the particular location the glass was made.  THEN, the piece has to be wrapped up and the package has to be sealed with a sticker.  Quite the process!  After our shopping explorations, we headed back up to the train station and made our way back to Rome.

The train trip to Rome was long and he had to take first class since there weren't any seats left in second class.  A bit more expensive but we got snacks!  Once in Rome, we found our last hotel and popped next store to have our last dinner.  While at dinner, we caught a muted version of Italy's Deal or No Deal.  Had a lot of similarities but a LOT of differences.  No briefcases, just cardboard boxes tied with string.  No models, just regular people.  AND, sometimes, you have to do a crocodile dance.  I'll be looking to stream it on a regular basis.

Then it was back to the hotel to get a good sleep before heading back to the airport the next morning.  We caught the airport express, checked in and and waited for the plane to bring us back home.  The flight was uneventful though I did get pulled into customs and had the salami Kevin bought from duty free confiscated (well, we tried - he can probably order it online, anyway).

We've made it home now and I managed to sleep until 5 this morning!  Time to do some laundry and pull the photos off the camera.  There's a lot! 

Friday, October 16, 2009

In Verona, but I haven't seen the gents yet...

So where did I leave off?  Right, the Uffizi.

We wandered back down to the tourist area to see Italy's largest gallery.  Happily, the wait wasn't too long and we got to see some very beautiful art.  After that, it was time for dinner, which we enjoyed overlooking a very old square and the palace.  We had some tasty cheese (which Kevin enjoyed greatly) and met a lovely couple from Cincinnati, who gave us some good tips about Venice.  After that, it was time for more gelato and headed back to the hotel.  In the morning, we had a lazy morning wandering around, enjoying a cappucino and some pastries before sitting in the Piazza della Repubblica before catching a bus for a tour out in Chianti.  We visited a winery called Vicchiomaggio (that may be spelled incorrectly) and got to see the giant barrels where the wine is aged and had a lovely tasting of 4 different Chianti wines with snacks (yum!) After that, we explored Greve before heading back to Florence for our last evening in the crazy hotel.  The next day, we got up, packed our bags and headed out to Pisa!

Pisa was a cute little town with little more than the tower and other church buildings.  We went through the cathedral, the baptistry and the cemetary before heading up the leaning tower.  I made it up to the bells, Kevin got all the way to the top.  It was quite weird going up the stairs as you could feel yourself falling towards various sides as you wound your way around the tower.  Very strange sensation.  Kevin tells me it was quite windy at the top and that he nearly lost his sweater.  After that, it was time for some lunch at a little trattoria that had a lovely view of the tour.  We were serenaded by a crazy old man who told Kevin he could donate if he liked the man's voice but that we didn't have to but that his voice was beautiful and that people who appreciate culture would give him money.  Kevin gave him some money.  I think it was to get him to go away.

After that, we caught the train up here to Verona.  After settling in, we headed out for dinner where Kevin finally had his tiramisu and I broke with my daily gelato tradition and had tartufo instead.  Today, we've been exploring Verona - seeing the arena (now the world's largest open air opera house) and Castelvecchio, a old castle filled with art and various things.  Then, we wandered around, seeing the Piazze dei Erbe and the Torre dei Lamberti (again, Kevin made it to the top, I got up to the bells) before finding Juliet's balcony and then a little spot for lunch and heading back here to the hotel.  Tonight is dinner and then tomorrow is off to Venice!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Florence!

Hello again... We've made our way up to Florence now and have had a lovely few days.

Our train trip up to Florence was quite the event. We didn't really know what was going on at the train station so we bought tickets that didn't have specific seats assigned. That was a bad idea. We ended up standing the whole 1.5 hours to Florence. And, the train left and hour late. After arriving, we made our way to our crazy hotel and then went out exploring. Sadly, it was the middle of siesta time so we couldn't get bus tickets. So we walked up to the Duomo instead. And we could't go in because a service was about to start. The idea for an early dinner didn't work out either - restaurants are closed from about 3 to 8. We napped back at the hotel, instead, before heading out for dinner at 9:30. It was worth the wait, though - I had the best gnocchi ever and Kevin took a chance on something called ribollita that he ended up loving. After that, it was back to the hotel (with another stop for gelatto along the way) and a good sleep.

Yesterday, we woke up to a cloudy sky (oh, did I mentioned that it's rained every night since we got here but not during the day at all?) and after a tasty breakfast, caught the shuttle up to the train station and booked tickets for Cinque Terre. It poured most of the way up but stopped just as we arrived in Levanto, pretty much. There, we bought our Cinque Terre cards and headed over to Monterossa. We had a nice little lunch over looking the sea before findind our way to the trail and hiking to the next village, Vernazza. This stretch of the path is supposed to be the harded - it was 3 km and the hike took about 1.5 hours and took us 300 metres above sea level. It was insane - in some places, there was hardly room for one person, let alone two if someone else was coming along. We met a nice couple from New Zealand who gave us some good tips about the other villages and spent a good chunk of the way walking with them. Once we arrived in Vernazza, it was time for water and a rest (and gelatto.) The views were beautiful so we decided to ask someone to take our photo. He looked at my sweatshirt and said "UW? Are you from Kitchener?" and we quickly learned the couple was from St. Catharines. They told us about their travels, made some recommendations and then a scary man started talking about how rude the Italians were so we both kinda started inching away. Too bad, it was a lovely conversation.

From there, we tried to take the train to the 4th village but it didn't really stop, it just kind of slowed down. So we caught the next train instead. We passed by Corniglia and went down to Manarola where I bought some local wine and olive oil. Then we walked the last part of the trail down to Riomaggiore along Via dell'Amore before stopping at a local restaurant where Kevin enjoyed some seafood spaghetti and I had a pizza.

Then it was back to Florence on the train (nearly went to Parma by accident) and to bed before getting up today to see the Accademia (with David) and going inside the Duomo. We climbed the 463 steps up to the top - I stopped around step 455 but Kevin went right out onto the cupola and got some beautiful photos of Florence. We had a nice little lunch and now, we've come back to the hotel to wait for the lines to die down at the Uffizi, Italy's largest and most famous museum.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I heart Roma

We're here! And it is awesome.

Our plane took off with little trouble beside a gate change at the last minute. The flight was smooth (yay for good pilots)and we made our way through customs with no major international incidents. After finding our way to our hotel in the glorious Italian heat, we freshened up and headed out to learn the subway system and start taking in the sights. We stopped for lunch at a little trattoria for our first taste of real Italian pasta - there was a HUGE menu but we walked in and were told we could only have pasta. That was fine as there was lots of pasta. We sat down and were told we could have canelloni, lasagne or something else (can't remember what...) So much for the huge menu!

Our first stop was the Colesseum. We walked out of the subway station and it was looming right up in front of us. Hard to miss! After wandering around for a few minutes, we went inside, skipping the MASSIVE line with our handy-dandy Roma Passes and looked around. It is pretty much impossible to describe how massively huge it is. It's pretty big, let's leave it at that. We spent a fair amount of time going around the entire outside of the second level before heading down to the first level and checking it out from that angle. The ruins are amazing - you can see all the tunnels that would have been running through everything.

After that, it was over to Palentine Hill to wander through the ruins of the ancient palaces. They were quite impressive. After wandering around there, it led us to the Roman Forum, which was also quite impressive. And both were HUGE, I think it took us about 2 or 3 hours to make our way from one end to the other. We were pretty tired after and went to head back to the hotel. We needed to shower again after all the dust and then made our way back out to head down to the Trevi Fountain. On the way, we stopped for dinner at a little restaurant that was out on the street. Kevin enjoyed some veal scallopini with lasagne and I had four flavours of gelato - I think we were both pleased with our selection! After that, it was down to the fountain, which was quite the site in the dusk, all lit up. We made our obligatory wish with a toss of a Euro in the fountain and off we went back to the hotel for a well-earned sleep.

This morning, it was breakfast in the hotel before heading out to Vatican City, where we got a guided tour of the museums and learned many interesting things about the millions of dollars worth of marble and how to worm your way back into the church if they get mad at you for murdering someone (paint them a really nice painting and they will be putty in your hands.) Our guide was a friendly fellow by the name of Ian, hailing from Glasgow and he was quite interesting to listen to. What surprised me most was the number of gift shops running throughout the galleries. We passed probably a half dozen while on the tour and then had to go through two or three more to get out. Sadly, we didn't see the Pope, but I hear he is pretty busy. We then headed over to St. Peter's where the line was probably about 3,000 people long (seriously, it wrapped around the entire place) so we decided to skip that and had tasty sandwiches instead. Then, it was back to the hotel to sort out how we'd get to our villa (moral of the story - we're staying an extra night in Florence instead) and then off to find the Crypt with the Capuchin monks and the Pantheon. Both found, both explored, both fascinating. Then it was time for some dinner (yum, pizza) and now we are heading back to the hotel to enjoy a bottle of wine THAT THEY OPENED FOR US IN THE STORE (seriously, the day the LCBO starts doing that will be the day I start going more frequently.) And maybe some more gelato on the way.

Don't miss you at all, Italy is fabulous... Tomorrow, we're heading off to Florence so it'll be a pretty dull day but then the adventures start again.

Okay, miss some of you a little bit.

Buona sera!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I got my swim trunks and my flippy floppies...

24 hours until take off, Kevin assures me he has the guidebook and I think I'm ready!

I've got all of our hotel confirmations printed out and in about 13 minutes, we can check in for our flight online!  My suitcase and carrying-on are packed, pictures below for those who don't believe I'm capable of travelling light.  FYI - I'm only going to have THREE pairs of shoes in Italy.  When I get there.  Perhaps more like thirteen by the time we head home. (sorry, the one image won't come in properly...  and I don't know how to rotate)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Okay, I know I have an essay to write...

It's my break time, though? Yes, that is it!

Last night, Kevin & I finished planning out what we want to see in Italy (it is only TEN sleeps away.) Man, are we ever going to be doing a lot! After we leave our Tuscan villa, it's off to Florence...
  • We'll arrive in the afternoon or evening, check into Hotel Crazy and head out on an evening walking tour of the city
  • Tuesday will be a day filled with art - we're taking in the Uffizi (the finest picture gallery in Italy, according to a guide book) and the Accademia (home of David) along. We're also going to visit the Duomo (which lords over the cityscape with an authority unmatched by any architectural creation in any other Italian city - also from the guidebook)
  • Wednesday is a day trip out to Cinque Terre where we will hike (read: saunter) as much of it as we can
  • Thursday brings a trip out to Pisa to check out the Leaning Tower and the Campo dei Miracoli before heading off to Verona where I will....
  • Have my photo taken with two random guys and claim they are the Two Gents and then let Kevin dictate the rest of the day's galleries and churches and museums
  • We also plan on eating a lot in Verona as we hear the food is amazing there (and shopping - don't tell Kevin)
  • Saturday, we head to Venice where we will spend Saturday and Sunday morning visiting St. Mark's Square (including the Doge's Palace) and quite literally, getting lost for a while
  • Sunday afternoon, it's back to Rome for our last night before coming back to Canada on Monday
It'll go pretty quickly but I can't wait for next Thursday to get here! I've already started packing :D (oh come on - did you really think I wouldn't have started by now?)