Europe Trip 11-12 – When in Rome, do as the other tourists do!

Catching up on my Europe Posts… A bit of a chore to be honest… But being there three weeks ago means it’s still somewhat fresh but clearly beginning to miss a few bits and pieces…

To think tht just three weeks ago, I had some beautifully crisp weather with an unseasonably warm 5-15 degrees depending on where I was. And just a week after leaving, it plummets and transforms the place into a winter nightmare. And it forces the closure of a number of ancient attractions…

Pre-post but related short ramble: HIGH SPEED RAIL IS BLOODY AWESOMELY BRILLIANT WHY THE HELL DO WE NOT HAVE IT IN AUSTRALIA OR AMERICA?! Traveling though Europe on trains can be a bit of a chore when you’re not going from major centre to another major centre, but when you are, and when there’s highspeed rail, why the hell would you want to board a plane? Sure they’re not as fast, but they are so much easier to board, alight and smoother then flying… Not to mention the 0.01 EUR Wi-fi connection available on the Italian Frecciarossa’s!

Anyway, onwards with the post.

So after being on a beautiful French-run TGV High-Speed Train (or HiSpeed in Neteherlands) from Brussels to Nice the day before, it was another long journey on several not on a high-speed train, but on a slow regional train along the beautiful French-Italian Mediterranean Coastline getting on in the morning from Nice, and changing at Ventimiglia and Genova to our coastally remote-ish destination.

Manarola, Liguria

Arriving at close to sunset along one of several small villages along the famed and absolutely stunning Cinque Terre coastline.

The village of Manarola is such a beautiful little village, and a great place to spend the night after two-days straight of travelling for me. The brightly coloured houses that stack themselves along the cliff-face is just so cute! Many of the people here are incredibly friendly, and it seems that the baristas around here can make some good coffee. (and food in general; A damn good Pesto Gnocchi!)

We had the pleasure of enjoying the sunset along the rocky shoreline while being oblivious to the boating tragedy that occurred just down the coastline.

Every year, they place a brightly lit Nativity Scene along the higher clifface that encloses the village. There is a pathway towards the back of the village that lets you get up and be a part of the scene and inspect the lights yourself.

Rome, Lazio

Arriving at Rome after yet again, a long train ride on late-running regional trains. (apparently late-trains in Italy are as expected or even more so than Sydney’s CityRail network…) But once here, we arrived at the apartment we are borrowing for our stay here. A rather spacious split-level studio-like apartment which was pretty much my IDEAL apartment if I ever moved out alone or with one other person.

Not to mention that the glorious Colosseum was right at our doorstep!

And so after a straight three days of travelling, we got to explore the sights of the ancient city where stolen Egyptian Obelisks can be found scattered throughout the city.

And of course, the many many beautiful elaborate and intricately decorated churches.

Along Rome’s High Street “Via Del Corso”, Christmas decorations remain hanging between the buildings, and you get the sudden urge to buy a Mercedes product…

Why don’t we put anchovies on pizzas more often? They are an amazing ingredient. Especially on pizza!

And what’s a trip to Italy without Gelato? And some damn good Gelato too!
Three generous scoops from a place called ‘Giolitti’ for 4.50 EUR and a good variety of flavours to choose from. The three flavours in this off-white-light photo of Gelato were a super intense Tiramisu, Crema and Nutella – Which we swear was basically just super-cold Nutella.

The Spanish Steps with not the best lighting.

And the beautiful view of the city from the top of the stairs.

The Fontana di Trevi – Hard to capture the whole thing with all the tourists surrounding the area, and the lack of a full-frame camera or ultra-wide-angle lens.

A beautiful little fountain… Well… its not that little…

Altare della Patria. (Altar of the Motherland) – An impressive monument I must say…

The next day, it is off to see the and visit the smallest country in the world; Vatican City, and Saint Peter’s Basilica.

I had seen too many people use their tablet device as a camera…

Overlooking the impressive St Peter’s Square. (Tienanmen Square is more impressive though =P)

Inside Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Just… Wow…

And the ceilings inside the Vatican Museum!

Just… stunning…

Then it was time to visit the rather large building in our neighbourhood.

It really is an impressive sight, and amazing to see (for a good part) in tact.

To think it took them only eight years to build back then… Takes us longer to even decide to build nothing!

Quick hop next door to the Roman Forum. An absolutely stunning historical site within the Roma Metropolitan Region. I didn’t study Roman History, nor do I have much interest in it, but it really does make you wonder what the place looked like back then, and how life may have been like…

Many tour and school groups here too… English and others… Could have tagged behind one to get a pretty good history lesson.

*nyan* One of many strays that are said to roam the streets and historical sites.

King/Queen of Roma!

Pompeii, Campania

Some uber-cute dogs just sleeping outside one of the many entrances to Pompeii’s Historical Site.

Mt Vesuvius looms in the background of the ruins site.

It’s amazing to see the vast site in person. A lot of the things have been removed, but some (like this mummified body, are on display in cages throughout the historical site.

One of the Auditoriums where I impersonated Steve Jobs and gave a keynote presentation. A stray dog that was sleeping upon one of the stairs got up and left… =(

Much of the remains and artefacts are stored in a museum in Naples, which we didn’t really visit other than to transfer trains at. To be honest, it looked like a really poor city, and people all the place warn us about the commonality that is petty crime…

Florence, Tuscany

After a beautiful ride through a lot of tunnels on a Frencciarossa, we arrive in the Tuscan capital of Florence, and stay at one of many hotels near the railway station that look somewhat dingy, and smell of mould.

Here we met up with our good buddy Daniel who is working his way down to Rome from Germany. With him, an old friend of his who is tagging along. (He uses Olympus… *judges*)

Above is their main church or “duomo”, which contrasts the majority of other churches by having an ornately decorated exterior…

Whilst having a more modest interior.
Nonetheless it has a REALLY HIGH ceiling…

The Arno river runs through the City, and street stores line the… streets… with shoes and leather. (Never seen someone try so hard to sell people a BLUE leather jacket…)

A replica of Michelangelo’s “David” stands in one of Florence’s main squares.

We visited the Pitti Palace, which honestly is a ridiculously regal ‘house’, but no photography of the interior was permitted. So here’s the view of Florence from one of the many rooms.

A Florentian Waffle.

A place we were recommended to eat at here by one of our Paris buddies, was ‘La Taverna’ on the corner of Via Cimabue, and Via Arnolfo, which was a bit out of the way, but very much worth the walk. The place is mainly filled with locals, and they have a rather nice steak here.

I love a good Tiramisu. Had a good number of them over the duration of my trip.
They had an interesting Tiramisu here, which was more creamy and light, than slightly rich and somewhat heavy like I’m used to.

Venice, Veneto

Then another High-speed train later, we arrive at the jaw-droppingly beauty that is Venice.

Plenty of intricate glasswork, glass-blowers and miniatures can be found throughout the maze of piazzas, canalways and alleyways of Venice.

And of course, plenty of Venetian masks! (Which don’t really fit my Asian head properly… =/)

Looks like they’ve had a recent outbreak of toxic paint issues here…

Venice is an absolutely gorgeous centre of Italy. The Grand Canal that runs through the island city is the main transport route.

Many much smaller canals like this one that enable access to the more inner-parts of the city.

Piazza San Marco – The main square in Venice which I never new exisited and I was just struck with awe at the place.
Am I the only one who knows Venice for their pigeons? (My family and Bevan knew… XD)

After spending most of the day through narrow alleys and crowded pathways, I was shocked to see such a large square in such a tightly enclosed space! (As well as another amazingly ornate church!)

That evening along the San Marco coast, we decided to take an expensive Gondola Ride because you’re in Venice! you kinda have to… (I guess that’s why they cost so much…)


The purple sunset glowing behind Santa Maria.

The boat ride was really chilly, so we decided to hop into what we weren’t expecting to be somewhat expensive hot chocolates/mochas. These buddies were about 8 Euros.


Peggy Guggenheim Museum of Venice. Told to visit here for this statue specifically.

Modern Art is weird…

Out on the point of where the Santa Maria della Salute is, overlooking the lagoon. It was ten degrees and sunny when we went. Our buddy Daniel was there three days before us, where it was minus-four and the place was just fog…

A statue that stands on the point, that symbolises boy’s triumph over frog. (I really don’t know…)

My last ‘real’ meal in Europe. How could I go past a plate of fried seafood?!

My last day in Europe was spent for the most part in fast-moving metal tubes… En-route to Zurich from Venice by train, I had a stopover in Milan, where I was greeted by a big beautiful Nokia Lumia 800 Banner. But it was also the place where I had to farewell my travel comrades as they made their way onwards to a different region of Switzerland.

Only walked out of the station a bit to look around. Didn’t head into the centre because there were scary-ish beggars outside most of the Metro stations… But having three hours till my train to Zurich, I walked towards the main financial district, which(like most European Cities) is being constructed. Love glass and concrete!
(I felt like I was in Shanghai!)

Next thing I knew, I arrived at Zurich Airport, the only place I could actually visit of ‘my time’ in Switzerland… Buit it was time to part ways, good weather resulted in a no delay flight out, and so it was 22 hours (With a ramen stop in Hong Kong of course. XD) of flying back home.