Archive for Europe

Day 8 : The Vatican City

Last but not the least, we went to the Vatican. This is off Ottaviano Station on the Red Line of the subway. Guided tours cost 35-40 Euros. It is better to pay 10-15 Eur extra over the 23 Eur audio guide and go for guided tours. Vatican museums have the highest density of artifacts and a trained guide points out the most important ones.

I would highly recommend you to read the Wiki article on Vatican Museums before you plan your Vatican trip.

We walked to Castle of San Angelo (our 2nd museum on Roma pass). We spent some time looking over the River Tiber from the top of the castle and returned.

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Day 7: Capitoline Hill , Piazza Venezia, Pantheon

This was a walking trip

1. Piazza Venezia / Victor Emmaneul II
2. Capitoline Hill
3. Pantheon
4. San Pietro in Vincoli : It is best known for housing Michelangelo’s Moses

A little bit of shopping was in place

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Day 6 : Ancient Rome – Colosseum & Roman Forum

‘Rome was not built in a day’ and it is evident why it wasn’t during our trip to Ancient Rome. We started off with Colosseum <Wiki>. We used our Roma pass – The Collesseo and Palantine Hill <Wiki> is consider as one ‘museum’. Having the Roma pass also saves the long queues here. We rented the audio guide which spoke about the history. Collesseo has a fascinating history. To think of a 50,000 seater to have been built 2 millenniums ago is almost impossible unless you see with your own eyes.  I could relate the Collesseo to the my favourite movie – The Gladiator.

It took us an hour and half to look around. We had a quick bite at the mobile (van) pantry  and headed towards Palantine Hill. One can choose to see these two places over 2 consecutive days but can enter each of the places only once. Palantine Hill is right next to the Collesseo. It is a long trek up the hill and down. The Roman forum is below the Palantine Hill. It takes nearly 2-3 exhausting hours to go around. Audio guide is a must without which the place is just well-maintained ruins. I recommend you read a little on Wiki/Roman Forum

We were all exhausted by the time we finished the two places and the bright summer sun drained us a off a bit. We returned to the hotel after a quick bite

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Day 5: Arriving in Rome, Public Squares & Fountains

We reached Rome early in the morning. We had a nice breakfast at Roma Termini. As suggested by another worthy of being called a traveler, we booked a nice place close to the station. We checked in at Aenea Superior Inn <Tripadvisor>. It is a Inn as its name indicates and not a traditional hotel. I had seen some excellent reviews of the place on Tripadvisor and booked this place. This is just off St. Maria Maggoire which is one of the landmarks in Rome. The location is very convenient. Its less than a kilometre from all most everything worth seeing.

We had a easy day and let ourselves soak in the beauty of the city where the past so easily merged with the present. To imagine, on those cobblestones, tread the kings and soldiers of one of the greatest empires of the world. We spent time doing our bookings, buying Roma pass.

We had lunch at the square behind Santa Maria Maggiore at a typical little Italian restaurant by the roadside with a couple of tables on the pavement.

We bought a day’s ticket for 4 EUR and then took the local train to Barberini Station on the Red Line. The first time use of Metro was a little unsettling because of the station. The stations are are like dungeons not very well lit, with pipes and wires exposed and falls slightly below the European standards. We got off at Barberini Station walked through Piazza Barberini with a beautiful fountain, Trevi Fountain <Wiki> (not to miss), Spagna <Wiki> (Spanish Steps) upto Piazza del Popolo <Wiki>. Piazza del Popolo is a nice place to spend your evening time. It is a large open and breezy area. Fortunately, we ended up there at late evening. We decided to stay on for sometime sitting at the stone steps. There was a nice ‘street’ show of a talented dancer who was dressed up like MJ and he danced to some of the MJ’s best tunes.

We walked back to our Hotel, stopping by for dinner in one of the restaurants near Spagna.

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Day 4: Lido

We added a small jewel as a part of our Itinerary – Lido <Wiki>. It is a small sliver of island, a sandbar, the house of Venice film festival. Not the best of the beaches, but it has some pretty well maintained beaches on the side away from Venice. It is just 30 min ride from Venice Island across the Lagoon  to Lido by Vaporetto.

We checked out of our Hotel early afternoon, left our luggage in the hotel. We had lunch near Rialto Bridge and bought a day ticket for Vaporetto. We hopped a couple of places along the Grand Canal and reached Lido around 4PM.

We went to one of the beaches with neatly arranged beach chairs. One can rent a two chairs, one umbrella and a single access to the bathroom for 20 Eur. Check of them beaches http://www.areniledeipioppi.com/en/index.php. It is worth packing your own food. We lost out on proper choices for our food at the beach. Thankfully we had a few packets of snacks with us. Also, the beach is more frequented by locals and the choice of books and magazines sold at the beach is restricted to Italian. If you are considering a day of reading by the sea, better get your own books and magazines.

We got out of the beach by 7PM. We strolled the island a bit allowing the beauty of the buildings and nature to soak us. By 8 we were on the Vaporetto back to the Venice Island.

We had a night Train ICN (Inter City Notte) around midnight to Rome. We had booked a double-bed coupe. Strangely in Italy, the adjacent seats do not necessarily have sequential number. We were worried that our seat numbers were 11 & 15 but thankfully it was in the same coupe.

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Day 3: Florence

We did a day trip to Florence. We took a Intercity Train from Venezia Mestre to Firenze Refredi. Venezia Mestre is in the mainland and is the next station from Santa Lucia station in the Venice Island which is off Ferrovia Vaporetto stop. You need to take 1 EUR ticket to get there. Firenze Refredi is one stop off Santa Maria Novella which is the main station of Firenze (Florence). If you have a intercity ticket, you dont need to buy a separate ticket from Refredi to Santa Maria Novella. We figured this out the hard way.

In Florence, we had already booked the bicycle tour at www.iBikeFlorence.com which is one of the best ways to explore Florence. It is a nice 2.5 hr trip across Florence.

Florence is best known for its sculptures. It was the seat of the Renaissance Art and the birthplace of many a known personality like Dante, Boccaccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Niccolò Machiavelli, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo Galilei, Catherine de’ Medici, Antonio Meucci, Guccio Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli, and Emilio Pucci.

Not to miss is the square in front of Palazzo Vecchio called Piazza della Signoria. It houses some of the famous sculptures like David (replica of the original kept in the Academia), Fountain of Neptune (eyeing David with vengeance), Hercules etc. It is practically an open museum.

The tour also took us to Santa Maria Novella, the artisans district, Palazzo Pitti, San Frediano, Ponte Vecchio (the old bridge), the Uffizi square,  Santa Crore, Piazza della Signoria,  the Duomo, and Piazza della Repubblica.

We took late night train back to Venice

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Day 2 : Rialto, St. Marks ,Shoppping, Dogg’s Palace

We started off early after a nice breakfast in the hotel. The breakfast in the hotel was both feast for the stomach and for the eyes. Ca Sagredo has its own beautiful history and dining halls of today were the great royal halls of the past. The frescos are well preserved giving a feel of a Royal breakfast.

We decided to do the most by walk

1. Rialto Bridge Wiki goes back almost a millenium in history. It is one of the not-to-miss landmarks in Venice. The pretty shops selling jewelry today were the butcher houses of yesteryears. The locking mechanism of the bygone era is still preserved in the original condition by the order of the local bodies.

2. St. Marks Wiki It is the area around is the eponym of the Basilica that stands there. It marks the tip of the Grand Canal away from the mainland. The Basilica is beautiful but there is a long line of visitors. The entry is free
3. Dogg’s Palace Wiki: This is the ducal residence, the palace housed political institutions of the Republic of Venice until the Napoleonic occupation of the city in 1797. Venice was ruled by an aristocratic elite, but there was a facility for citizens to submit written complaints at what was known as the Bussola chamber. This is one of the monuments of Republic. The famed ‘Bridge of Sigh’s connects the Dogg’s palace to the Prisons
4. The St. Marks area is lined up by little shops selling mementos. We picked up a few masks which is the best known symbol of Venice.

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