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Showing posts from September, 2012


Last night in Venice was delightful. I went out for a night time walk by myself, down the quiet streets and past the nearly silent canals before settling in a reasonably calm piazza for a glass of wine and a cigar. It was wonderfully warm and dark and peaceful - such a contrast to the day, which was marvellous, but loud and hot and colorful. I took great delight in the fact that i had mastered my way around our area of Venice. Able to make my way from point a to b without a map made me feel like a genius.

This morning, after a coffee and croissant we took a boat back to the train station and took the train back to Rome (it was a fancy highspeed train and got us to our destination in about 4 hours). We are now staying in the Piazza Farnese at the Casa D Santa Brigida convent, which is indeed a proper convent filled with a gaggle of nuns, but they also offer some simple rooms for rent. It isn't cheap, but it is a great location and it is cool to be in a convent. This afternoon we …


Venice. We arrived yesterday morning on the train from Bologna (about a 1.5 hour journey). The first glimpse from the train station was amazing and it has continued to be so. It has water for streets! I know, everyone knows that, but to actually see it is amzing. There are the goldonlas, of course, shuttling tourists lazily up and down the waterways, but more amzing are the other boats: the water taxis, individual motor boat, boat delivering office supplies, produce, hauling away recyclinge, etc. It is quite remarkable how the whole city operates on the water.

Water aside, there are streets. There are however no cars or motorcycles and very few bicycles, just pedestrians making their way down the streets, both normal sized, and those barely big enough to pass single file, between buildings and over foot bridges, past the glittering canals. It is phenomenal. Walking through the city is like walking through a beautiful maze. Walking down each street one is not sure whether it will end …

Parma & Modena

After a few rather full days, including yesterday's unexpected excursion to San Marino, we were pretty tired today and i woke up feeling a bit under the weather. That said, we couldn't just lay about, so today we took the train west to Parma, which is aabout an hour away. Parma is known for its ham and cheese and there was certainly a lot of both. We walked the streets and through markets selling fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, and clothing and housewares. There were many more piazzas and churches to visit and they were lovely, although today I think we both felt a bit saturated with Italian splendour. It is not that we didn't appreciate what we saw, but it didn't feel like the first time we had seen it.

After Parma, we took the train to Modena (half way between Bologna and Parma), which is another gastronomic town, famous for its balsamic vinegar. It was quite attractive and was very quiet when we arrived - during lunch when the shops are closed. We settled in …

In and Out of Italy

Yesterday, having seen much of Bologna the previous day, Betty-Lou suggested that we take a trip to the sea so we caught a train to Rimini on the Adriatic. Rimini is a prosperous feeling town with the expected sunny piazzas and beaches...or at least we assume there were beaches. We never did actually make it to the shore.
We took a spin around the town's old centre (on foot of course) and had a coffee before catching a bus to San Marino. Where? Exactly. We hadn't heard of it either. When we popped into the tourist info booth in Rimini we discovered that San Marino was only about an hour or so away by bus and that it is in fact its own country. How could we resist?

San Marino (the city) is the capital of San Marino (the country) and it located atop a small but high mountain and seems to be entirely made up of medieval towers and walls running dangerously along the jagged peaks of the mountain. It was a delight to explore their craggy nooks and crannies. The streets were tremen…

Hams and Arches

Today we arrived in Bologna, a mere 40 minute train ride from Florence. We are staying at a lovely little pensione on the 5th floor of a non descript building. We have a beautiful view of the red rooftops of the city - particularly picturesque at sunset we discovered.

Bologna is (not surprisingly) another attractive smallish city with cobbled streets lined with inviting cafes and shops and dotted with churches and piazzas. What sets Bologna apart is that most of the sidewalks are covered by arched porticos, apparently about 40 kilometers of them. This makes them particularly nice for walking in the hot sun. The other notable thing about Bologna is the hams, which are everywhere. Every second store seems to be a deli of sorts and the ceilings, stair rails and windows are all hung with enormous hams - the sort that an Italian Tiny Tim would have stared at hungrily through the window (had A christmas Carol been Italian, that is). There are fewer vegtarian items on the menus and decidedly…

Cinque Terre

Today we took another day trip from Florence. We had a free day with nothing scheduled (however did i let that happen?) and Betty-Lou suggested that we visit Cinque Terre. She had raised this as an option months ago, but i thought it seemed too far to visit in a day from Florence and we had heard that a couple of the town had been destroyed in mudslides...or earthquakes. Anyway we made the trek and are pleased to report that the towns are restored and it is possible to see it all in one (long) day.

Cinque Terra is, not surprisingly, five small towns clinging to the rocks above the sea on the west coast of Italy. The first town is about an hour an a half from Florence (via Pisa and La Spezia). The five towns are joined by a train but also by a ridiculously picturesque walking trail that winds along the cliffs. To walk the whole thing would take several hours (and one stretch of the path is closed due to the slides), so we mostly took the train between the towns, but along the part that…

Pisa & Lucca

Yesterday we ventured outside of Florence for a day trip to Pisa, which was about an hour and half away by train. Pisa was a pretty little town and had some lovely streets for wandering but the main focus of course was to see the famous tilting tower. The leaning tower was surprisingly small and surprisingly beautiful. I did not think it would be so white. Set against the particularly blue sky yesterday it was striking. The tower does indeed lean at a very noticeable angle and we, like the countless other visitors captured numerous photos of it from every angle. (What we did not do was take photos of ourselves 'holding up' the tower, which many others seemed to be doing.) The queues were far too long to wait around in the hot sun to climb to the top so we visited the neighboring duomo and baptistry, which were splendid. (Also spendid was the fact that while walking through the tourist crowds Betty-Lou found a fifty euro note on the ground!) After the architectural sites, Bett…

A Day in Firenze

Our first full day in Florence is complete and we have now seen all of the sights on my list and we have wandered leisurely down countless streets, each more picturesque than the last.

After blogging last night we ate at a tiny and inviting Moroccan restaurant. It took Betty-Lou three full days to decide that she does not care much for Italian food. There seems to be a paucity of fresh vegetables on the menu, she ordered eggplant at one point and it came smothered in cheese. The Moroccan food was a welcome change.

Today we hit the streets and sights that we missed yesterday. We visited the Church of Santa Croce, where Michelangelo, Galilleo, and Machiavelli are buried, amongst others. We went to the Church of Santa Novella which houses some excellent renaissance art, we walked the stalls of the central market and dodged the friendly vendors. There is an impressive array of leather goods here for sale, as well as beautiful stationery, and an endless array of Pinocchio bric a brac. It i…

Under the Tuscan Sun

It has been a couple of days longer than i expected since our last post, but as it turned out we got to the internet cafe just after closing on our final night in Rome and there is no internet in Gubbio.

Our final full day in Rome was lovely and leisurely. Having seen most of the big sights we had on our lists, we were free to wander at leisure. We visited the Castel Sant Angelo, walked through the Jewish Ghetto area, past yet more ancient ruins and through more churches than i can keep track of. We walked to the Spanish Steps which were picturesque, but the area was not really our scene as it was more of a high end shopping district. We visited the Piazza del Popolo and had a lovely lunch of zucchini, caccio e pepe, and wine which was awesome. In the evening we went back to Il Campo and ate and drank on the square. There is a bar/eatery on the corner where for 10e you can have a cocktail and all you can eat appetizers. It was a great deal and we ate our fill while i enjoyed an obscen…


Ciao from Rome. We arrived on Saturday afternoon after an uneventful flight through Amsterdam. On first impression Rome is a beautiful city. The architechture is stunning and the sun washed piazzas are incredibly romantic and inviting. We have enjoyed wandering about the tangled streets past tiny sidewalk eateries, imposing and decorative churches and throngs of people hanging around, eating, drinking, smoking, and talking.

Our hotel is just perfect. We are staying at the Hotel Guilia, which is on the Via Guilia, just a few steps from the Tiber River. The hotel quaint and immaculate and ideally located. The first night we walked across the bridge to the south of the Tiber where an energetic neighborhood awaited with people out everywhere. We joined them for pizza and a cigar and walked aimlessly until it was time for bed.

On day one we started at the very beginning with the Colosseum and the Forum/Palatine Hill. I was apprehensive about visiting the Colosseum due to the massive amou…