I’m sure I’ve made myself quite clear by now that I don’t like tourist spots. I’m not a fan of big crowds and I prefer to experience the more “authentic” lifestyle of the place I’m visiting. Besides, I don’t like walking around with a big dollar (or euro) sign on my head as a “cash cow” tourist, just asking to be ripped off and given bad food in restaurants. Having said all that, why did we go to Rome and Venice last week? Well, I don’t think you can come to Italy and NOT visit those places, and of course there are worthwhile things to be seen there: historical structures, famous archeological sites, food exclusive to the region….and scenes from favourite movies!
Our journey began at the Villafranca-Bagnone railway station very early on Monday morning. This being our first real train experience, we had no idea which side of the tracks to stand and a last-minute dash to the other side really got the blood pumping. Trains in Italy run EXACTLY on time and are clean, fast and relatively cheap. We had no problems at all making all of our connections and enjoyed the freedom of being able to look at the passing countryside without worrying about crazy drivers or where to park the car. The bullet train from La Spezia to Rome was very fast and smooth, with the added bonus of being beggar-free, and we arrived around lunch time. Most of our time in Rome was spent wandering around on foot, with some time on the open-top city tour bus to get to destinations further afield. Highlights included: the Colosseum, Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Vatican, Trevi fountain and various archeological dig sites scattered around the city. Overall, I found Rome to be very interesting from a historical perspective but it was expensive, full of tourists (like us!) and uncomfortably hot. Enjoy the pictures!
At the train station on the WRONG side of the tracks! Clueless tourists 🙂
Guess where we are?
I like this shot of the Colosseum...it looks empty
The Colosseum. The ruins themselves were impressive, but then you imagine what this place would have looked like "back in the day" with it's Carrara marble, beautiful statues and sculptures, gilt decorated halls.....and thousands of people cheering!
Inside the Colosseum. Many many tourists.
Getting arty in the Colosseum
This photo has special meaning for us. The block of stone that Chris is sitting on has "LOSEC" carved into it. This is the name of the drug that Chris used to have to take daily before his reflux operation.
One of the archeological sites just outside the Colosseum. I really loved these places around Rome because they indicate the continuing discovery of artifacts and, in some cases, give a good impression of what life in ancient Rome was like.
Aussies!! Hi Tess and Jess! We met these lovely ladies on the tour bus. So nice to hear the accent again 🙂
A beggar on the street outside the Colosseum. The ones on the trains have business cards.
We were SUCH tourists 🙂
I loved this place! It's the Victor Emmanuel monument, otherwise known as the "wedding cake". A very elaborate structure which gives great views from the roof (we had lunch up there). Not everyone agrees that it's aesthetically pleasing, but it appealed to me.
On top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument
A very friendly seagull on top of the Victor Emmanuel monument
A street in Rome (Victor Emmanuel monument in far background)
St Peter's square, Vatican city
The Egyptian obelisk in St Peter's square. 3000 years old...very impressive!
Breaking the rules in the Sistine Chapel. No photography allowed. Oops!
Statues inside the Vatican. I was suprised to see they had painted eyes, but apparently many statues were painted originally.
Having a rest. Walking around the Vatican is very tiring, it's so huge.
Gorgeous stained glass window in the Vatican museum. I love the faces, very serene and regal (even for a baby!)
Inside St Peter's Basilica. A very ornate place.
I took this shot of Chris in the beautiful late afternoon light, the shadows were really interesting. Soon after, every tourist within 100metres was taking the same shot!
Well, it looked "holy" with that light, so I just went with it 🙂
Denver, trying to imitate the Swiss Guard soldier in the background
The Trevi Fountain. Thanks to the nice young US college girl who took this photo for us! It does appear as if there are no tourists, but trust me that place was jammed tight with them.
The Spanish Steps. At the risk of sounding spoiled, I was unimpressed with this place. Just some big stairs with lots of people sitting on them. Meh. There are much nicer places to be seen in Rome.
As touristy as it is (I know, enough already about the tourists!) I rather liked Venice. It’s a beautiful city with a very unique layout and many historical buildings. I also like the fact that it’s a walking city with no cars in it, this makes it seem like one big pedestrian mall and you don’t get the added pollution and noise of cars. Our hotel was very central and we ventured out on many excursions through the maze of streets in Venice. It’s easy to get lost, even with a map, but when you get lost you can sometimes stumble on really cool areas which you might not have otherwise found. We did the usual tourist things like take a Gondola ride and eat dinner next to the Grand Canal, but we spent a lot of time just wandering around and browsing the many interesting shops. Amongst the items to buy: Murano glass, elaborate masks, puppets, jewellery, antiques and artworks.
As beautiful as Venice is, its location comes at a price: mosquitoes and stench. The mozzies feasted on the boys, with poor Denver winning the bite tally with 11 big ones. As for the stench, it is something you’d have to get used to with so much water and pollution in one place. Occasionally, as you wander the streets and cross one of the many hundreds of little bridges, you get a waft of putrid funk to singe your nose hairs. I’m sure many people in Venice get away with breaking wind in public by placing the blame elsewhere! These things can’t really be helped and don’t detract from the unique beauty of Venice, but……1,50 euros to use a toilet?? That’s right, 1,50 euros per person to take a leak. I mean it’s not like it’s optional, especially for little boys! For a family of 4, that’s 6 euros (about AU$8) which adds up if you’re out all day over several days. The only other option is to go to a cafe or restaurant (first check if they let you use their toilet!) and buy food/drink. I think charging for public toilets like this only encourages public urination (ewwww!) and leaves a bad taste in the tourist mouth, not to mention a bad smell in public places. Still, Venice is lovely and Chris got some great shots. I’ve only posted a very small selection which should tell you just how many he actually took!
Taking a ride on a Gondola, the Grand Canal behind
Balin took this shot of us on the Gondola. Good job Bay!
Our Gondola guy, Alessandro. Great timing with the head-ducking under those bridges.
Denver with a VERY swollen eye from a mozzie bite
The Rialto Bridge. Shops, shops and more shops (yes, and tourists everywhere!)
Denver next to a lion statue at San Marco Square
From the cloisters of St Mark's Basilica, looking out to the Campanile. San Marco square is such a feast for the eyes, you could sit on a chair in the middle of the square and only need to rotate it 90 degrees every 2 hours or so....there is just so much to look at!
Balin staring at one of the ornate doors to St Mark's Basilica. SUCH a gorgeous building, an amazing work of art!
A boat going up one of the small canals in Venice
Yes, it's Venice
A random bridge in Venice
A not-so random bridge in Venice. There is a photograph of Chris when he was little on a bridge in Venice. We walked around looking for that bridge. Given there are over 400 of such bridges in Venice, Chris thought that this one was a pretty close match. We shall say that this is a recreation of that historical photograph 🙂
Chris and the boys on the Scalzi Bridge
Another typical Venetian scene
Panoramic view of a canal in Venice
The little men in Venice
Getting lost in Venice can sometimes show you some really great scenes
A selection of some of the beautiful masks available in Venice
Water doors in Venice
A Gondola on the Grand Canal (shot from our Gondola!)
From San Marco square, looking across to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the late afternoon.
Chris got up very early one morning to get some images of Venice waking up. This is my favourite.
This is a bit of an in-joke with us. I am (apparently) Marie Antoinette and this doll is (apparently) me. It's a very long story, stemming from people that we've met here assuming that I'm french which I won't go into here. Just thought I should explain the picture of the doll. They're nice dolls though aren't they?
Typical Venetian architecture
Dinner on the Grand Canal and some well-fed mozzies (I'm sure they're somewhere in that picture!)
A type of torte only made in Venice. It contains pistacchios, sultanas and other nuts. It was soooo delicious!
On the train on the way home
We made it! Home at last 🙂