italy: 2007 trip Archives

May 31, 2007

my itinerary

I leave in 1 week!! I still have SO MUCH to do!!

For this trip, I decided to go back to places I have been to before to get to know each one more in depth. I started out by reserving apartments in Venice and Rome and then decided on the "middle” according to the train schedules and connections.

I have never considered renting an apartment in the past but after reading so many wonderful comments about staying in apartments on the Slow Travel website, I decided to take the leap.

My apartment in Rome was the first accommodation reserved. I must thank Ann, another Slow Traveler, who pointed me in the direction of this lovely apartment in Trastevere.

I next found an apartment in Venice. I have been a little nervous about my apartment in Venice as there was no down payment required or a credit card number needed to reserve this apartment and the availability calendar continued to show that the apartment was not rented during my requested dates for months after I made my reservation. I was originally told that keys would be sent to me and I was given directions to get to the apartment on my own. I was also told to pay the agency the following Monday (as I arrive on a Saturday when they are closed).

When sending my re-confirmation email the other day, I was told that a new person was now handling the apartment. After my initial panic, and reassurance from Slow Traveler friends, the woman contacted me and all is well. She will meet me at the train station in Venice which makes me feel much better. This way, she can answer any questions I may have about the apartment and I won’t be wandering around lost with my 4 maps of Venice. The apartment is in the Cannaregio area close to where they filmed the flower shop scenes in the movie Bread and Tulips.

After setting my beginning and ending places, I next worked on the "middle". I always try to see my friends while in Italy and so the 3rd part of my trip planned was a stop in Coccaglio to visit Katia & Guido. We met many years ago while sitting on a bench in Vernazza waiting for a train that was an hour late and have been good friends ever since.

The rest of the "middle" was the hardest part to plan. I wanted to try to do more of a "slow travel" trip this time but ended up planning a 1 night stay in Bologna and then a 3 night stay in Cortona.

I thought about staying in Bologna the entire 4 nights but wanted to stay in a smaller town for this part of my trip. I have not been back to Tuscany for a few years and so I decided on Cortona, a town I have only spent a few hours in once many years ago.

After looking at the train schedules, I decided to make a 1 night stop in Bologna on the way. The train trip would have been 6 hours from Coccaglio to Cortona with at least 3 changes in trains and that is something I just did not want to do. That is how I ended up with a one night stay in Bologna. I am actually excited to return to Bologna, even if it is only for 1 night. The food is amazing there and I have already decided where I will eat. I will only grab what I need from my suitcase and I don't plan to unpack everything so I can get right out to see the city right after I arrive.

Recently I realized that my itinerary may now have a little glitch in it as a strike has been announced for the day I plan to take the train from Cortona to Rome. After looking at all my options, I decided that I will go to Rome a day early if the train strike is not called off. The apartment is available and the woman renting it has been extremely generous in offering it to me without charging me since I will still have to pay for my room in Cortona as I need to give them notice of any cancellations 2 weeks in advance.

Here is my final itinerary:

arrive in Milan, June 9th
take the train to Venice

1 week in Venice - apartment in Canareggio

2 nights with friends - (Katia & Guido) in Coccaglio

1 night in BolognaHotel San Porta Mamolo

2 OR 3 nights in CortonaB&B Le Gelosie
*depending on the train strike

10 OR 11 nights in Rome - apartment in Trastevere
*depending on the train strike

depart Rome
1 night at the Newark Liberty International Airport Mariott

arrive in Honolulu

I want to thank everyone on Slow Travel for all of your support, advice, hotel reviews, restaurant reviews, and trip reports. I will try to post when I can while in Italy to let you know of my adventures.


June 13, 2007

the good, the bad, & the ugly

Departed Honolulu- Thursday evening, June 7th
Arrived Milan - Saturday morning, June 9th

The good:
Another wonderful check in experience at the Honolulu Airport. No line for the agriculture inspection. A long line for Northwest, BUT no line for Continental!! Because I already printed out my boarding pass, all I had to do was check my bag. There was an open kiosk available when I arrived. I quickly checked my bag (32 pounds) and went to the screening area. The aloha spirit is alive and well at the Honolulu Airport!

The line was not very long and so I was not very concerned about the wait, but a very kind man suggested that anyone leaving from gate 27 go to the next screening area because there was a shorter line there. He was correct. It took a total of 5 minutes to breeze through. This was the first time I flew since the new liquid rules. The person in front of me was a flight attendant and so I just followed her. It was sort of like an assembly line. Off go the shoes, everything goes in little bins, and one by one, we walk through the metal detector. The baggage screeners were very cheerful as I passed through.

After gathering all my belongings, I tried to figure out where my gate was located. My glasses were in a bag so I had to squint to read the signs. I saw a couple of ladies sitting on carts and went to ask one where gate 27 was. She said to hop in and she would give me a ride! WOW, that was probably the highlight of my flight. And it gets even better. Along the way, I asked her where I could buy some water. She said that the stores by my gate were already closed but she would pull over to one of the stores along the way and wait for me while I purchased my water. We picked up an older man along the way and quickly arrived at my gate. Simply amazing!

My flight took off on time and was as pleasant as a flight could be in coach. I ate some dried cherries (a tip I read that helps with jet lag) and slept much of the flight.

Once in Newark, I had about 5 hours to kill. It took 2 hours before my gate was announced so I basically wandered and stopped to watch the latest with Paris going back to jail on CNN. I also searched for the mailbox I had seen in the past to mail some cards that I should have mailed before I left and found out that there no longer are any mailboxes or mail slots inside the airport. The only way I could mail my cards was to go outside and then go through the security line again. Needless to say, the cards are now in Venice with me.

I had a grilled pepper and cheese sub, YUM!! and then headed over to my gate about an hour before it was scheduled to take off. A large group of people all flying together were sitting near me. We chatted a little and then slowly learned that our flight was not taking off on time. First we got the "Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be shortly delayed as we need to clean the plane" and then once we all boarded were told that we were out of order for the runway and it would only be a 15 minute delay. I'm sure you all know how that goes. Well, I really really had to pee by the time we finally took off. I leaped out of my seat as soon as we seemed to be leveling off and bolted for the restroom. Two of the flight attendants started to stop me but I pleaded that I had a medical condition and it was an emergency. They both were extremely kind, and one of them, a very cute flight attendant who was assigned to our section, was very kind to me the entire flight.

I sat next to an interesting guy that works for Diesel and lives in Switzerland. We chatted for a while until we were served dinner and then it was movie time. I forgot to have more cherries, but fell asleep anyways pretty quickly and slept much of the flight.

We arrived about 90 minutes later than scheduled and zoomed through the passport control area.

The bad:
The luggage guys seemed to be taking a break. Nothing moved for over 30 minutes. I chatted with a couple that did not have a very good travel agent as they were booked at the airport hotel for 2 nights! I didn't have the heart to tell them that staying at the airport area was probably the worst choice they could have made. They wanted to go to Venice one day and Lake Como the next. They probably should have stayed at Lake Como for the 2 nights instead.

Finally the bags started to come out. I grabbed my bag and realized (THE BAD) that my handle was broken!! It would not budge. While I lent my phone to the wife of the couple to call the hotel for a shuttle (and sadly she was told to take a taxi), the husband tried to help me pull up the handle. He was able to pull it up about 4 inches and that was as far as it would go. So much for the new tote bag I bought specifically to slip over the handle.

I easily found the bus to the train station outside of the airport and handed my luggage to the driver to put underneath and grabbed a seat. The bus ride was as pleasant as a bus ride into the city could be. I bought my ticket and 30 minutes later I was on the train to Venice. We took off about 5 minutes later than scheduled. I was on a Eurostar train and so it was a very pleasant 3 hour train ride. Once we arrived in Mestre, we were told that there would be a slight delay. Outside, you could see tons of people waiting for trains. Later I found out there was some sort of strike taking place. We ended up being 30 minutes delayed by the time we arrived at the Santa Lucia train station.

I met Ketty, the woman who was to take me to my apartment at the train station. We sent a few SMS' (text messages) back an forth since my arrival at the airport in Milan. I needed to buy my Venice Blu Card ticket, which I reserved ahead of time and gives me 7 days of access on all vaporetti. There was a HUGE line and she did not want to wait. She said it was just a short walk to the apartment and that the maid was waiting there with the key and needed to leave. I knew the route that we were about to take and this was NOT part of my plan.

There were lots of people along the way and Ketty walked at a brisk pace weaving in and out of the crowd. I tried my best to keep up while pulling my suitcase with the broken handle which was not easy to do. We had to cross 5 bridges. Now 5 may not seem a lot to you, but by the 5th bridge, my arms were shaking and I could hardly lift my bag.

We arrived at the door of my apartment and Ketty buzzed the maid. The apartment is on the 3rd floor (2nd floor for Italian lingo). I tried to lift my bag but my arms were not budging. Ketty helped me by grabbing one end and finally just carried it on her own. I was pleasantly surprised by a very nice apartment and after Ketty quickly announced the name of each room, she said goodbye and started to leave. I asked her to wait until I was sure about using each key and then said goodbye.

By this time, 30 hours after taking off from Honolulu, I was completely exhausted. I unpacked my things, stopped at an ATM, went to the grocery store (Billa), and bought a few things for dinner as well as some toilet paper. There was not even a square left for me so that was a priority!

Then, I went over the to Rialto Bridge vaporetto stop and bought my Venice Blu card. At first, the woman was going to make me go back to the train station but after I explained how long I had been traveling and asked her nicely if I could buy the ticket there, she agreed.

I made myself a caprese salad for dinner and went to bed. I woke up at 1 am and was not able to get back to sleep. I finally got up around 5:30. I watched some TV, had some yogurt and cereal for breakfast and then headed out to explore Venice.

Sunday, June 10th
Sunday morning in Venice at 6:30 am is pretty quiet. The street cleaners (men with brooms, not machines) were hard at work. I was amazed at all of the trash. I have to say though that there are not many wastebaskets around, not that I am making an excuse for littering.

The ugly:
OK, are you ready for the ugly?? After wandering my neighborhood for a while, I decided to head towards Piazza di San Marco. Thank goodness I looked down as at one point I just missed stepping on a dead rat!! Yes, you are reading this correctly, a big fat rat. I assume he or she was dead but perhaps it was just asleep. I guess the street cleaners did not get to that street yet.

This is my 4th trip to Venice and in her defense, this is only the first rat I have seen. That's the ugly!

jet lag & rain

Sunday, June 10th
Sunday morning was pretty peaceful in Venice. The skies were blue, the sun was out, and the temperature was perfect. Not too hot, but also not too chilly. It was amazing to stand in such an empty Piazza San Marco. There could not have been more than 30 or 40 people in the entire square. Even the pigeons had not arrived. I guess they wait for the vendors with the pigeon food to arrive.

I had a nice chat with the man standing by the Basilica door about how empty it was. I asked him if it was because it was Sunday. He said that every morning at 7 am most of Venice is still asleep. Although this will not convert me to be a morning person, I was glad to be there in the wee hours of the morning to enjoy the piazza without the crowds. After taking a few pictures, I walked down as far as the Arsenale area and then took the vaporetto back to Ca' Doro, stopped for my first italian coffee (heavenly) and then headed back to my apartment.

I was pretty wiped out and took a long nap. I woke up feeling the beginning of a cold coming on. I thought I escaped that nasty bug that many of the teachers at my school caught the last month of work. I took my cold snap, wellness capsules, and drank some airborne. Unfortunately none of that helped.

Later on in the day, I explored some of the Canneregio area where my apartment is located and then stopped at the grocery store again and bought some pesto and pasta for dinner. I was feeling pretty terrible by this point and decided that I would eat at home and get to bed early again. I had some more cherries hoping that would help with my jetlag. Unfortunately I forgot to have some again the night before and so it will be hard to tell if they work or not since I have not been eating them regularly right before dinner.

I fell asleep pretty quickly. I woke up at 2 am and could not go back to sleep! I found a cable plug in the bedroom and moved the tv to the bedroom and tried my best to go back to sleep. The tv usually will put me back to sleep.

Monday, June 11th
I finally got up at around 6 am and saw that the weather was gray and cloudy. The "METEO" (weather report) was not promising. I headed out after having some breakfast. I stopped for my morning coffee and then decided to walk down to the train station in search of an internet site along the way. I remembered seeing one last year but could not find it. I thought perhaps there might be one in the train station. Just as I arrived, the skies opened up and it started to rain. Umbrellas popped up everywhere. I headed over to San Tomà to go to the agency that arranged for my apartment to pay my bill. After paying, I stopped in a paper store and then decided to try Casa Mia for lunch.

Casa Mia is one of the restaurants recommended in the Chow Venice book I bought. A great choice! I had a delicious pepperoni pizza (peppers not the meat). Delicious! After lunch, I was feeling pretty lousy and was not up for walking around in the rain. I had dinner at my apartment again and tried to stay up as late as possible.

Tuesday, June 12th
Tuesday morning, I woke to another cloudy and overcast day. I slept until about 4 which was an improvement. I was feeling horrible but decided to head out anyways. I walked to the Fondamenta Nove area and then took one of the vaporetti around the island. I got off at the Giardini stop and thought about visiting the Biennale but decided against it. The weather looked like it was going to start raining at any moment and I still was not feeling too good. I took the next vaporetto and stopped at the COOP at the Piazzale Roma stop. I bought some food for lunch and dinner and then headed back to the apartment and hung out for most of the afternoon until finally it cleared up and a little bit of blue sky peeked through.

I headed out searching for a recommended gelateria. I found it after a few wrong turns but I was not thrilled with the flavors and really wanted pistachio, which they did not have, so I continued on to search for another gelateria. I stumbled into 2 amazing piazzas, Campo Santa Maria Formosa and Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo and I found a gelateria with pistachio!

After hanging out for a while, I headed back to my apartment. As I was walking back to my apartment, I saw another recommended restaurant that I wanted to try and made a mental note as to how to get there again for a lunch or dinner later in the week.

I was wiped out and had dinner once again at my apartment and then watched a movie on tv. I can't even remember the name of it at the moment but thankfully that was the last night of my jetlag haze.

June 18, 2007

train adventure traveling to Bologna

Monday, June 18th
Ciao! I am now in Bologna. I still need to catch up with my days in Venice and also my stay with my friends in Coccaglio. I am only here for one day and have a dinner reservation in an hour but I wanted to at least check in.

I arrived at the train station in Rovato about 15 minutes early. I validated my ticket and I was set to say goodbye to Katia when we saw that my train was 50 minutes delayed! That made my connection in Verona impossible. Rovato is a very small train station with one ticket booth with a man that is not very friendly. After buying a ticket from him a few years ago, I always buy my ticket in advance when taking a train from this station so that I can avoid him. I was not very hopeful that he would be able to help but surprisingly, he was able to suggest an alternate train that should still get me to Verona in time. He told me that I would not have to pay anything more since the train I bought the ticket for was now canceled.

Katia had to leave to go to work and so I sat and waited. This train ended up being 5 minutes late also. I arrived in Brescia and saw that the Eurostar City train was going to Verona and would get me there on time. I told my story about my cancelled train to the conductor but he would not let me on the train. He said I had to wait for the IC train which would get me to Verona in time for my connection.

Continue reading "train adventure traveling to Bologna" »

bustling Bologna

Monday, June 18th
First a little more about my hotel. Hotel Porta San Mamolo is quite an interesting hotel. I had to pay close attention when shown to my room and later got lost a couple of times finding it. My room was on the second floor after walking through this maze of outdoor and indoor corridors. As I mentioned earlier, I thought there must have been a mistake as I asked for a single room, but this room was huge! There even was a couch in the room!! I was staying for one night but still there were tons of towels (the fluffy type) and soaps and shower caps, etc. The shower was wonderful and the bed was also huge!

I had been to Bologna a couple of times before; once on a day trip and once for an overnight stop. When making my itinerary this year, I thought about 4 days in Bologna but then decided on wanting one smaller place to stay instead of all cities (since my other stops would be Venice and Rome). I know that one night is definitely not “slow travel” but it would have been six hours and 3 train stops to Cortona and so I chose Bologna as my half way point.

Continue reading "bustling Bologna" »

June 19, 2007

bella Cortona

Tuesday, June 19th
The breakfast the following morning in Bologna was one of the usual buffet types. There was a man at the bar taking orders for coffee. He made me a delicious Caffè macchiato. The staff were very friendly and helpful. I found Hotel Porta San Mamolo after reading one of Palma’s posts from Bologna. I would definitely stay there again if returning to Bologna.

I arrived in Cortona about 12:45 after two train rides. It was a beautiful day. I was fortunate to have a nice man share a taxi with me at the Camucia-Cortona train station, although I think I ended up paying the entire fare. After checking into my B&B, I went on a restaurant hunt to find a somewhere to have lunch. I brought a list of recommended restaurants with me. As I did not know the town well yet, I looked for restaurants near the center which was also near my B&B. I stumbled onto La Logetta but it was already full. Since I was there, I asked to have a table reserved for me for dinner. I also asked the waiter for a recommendation of another restaurant nearby. He suggested Il Cacciatore.

Il Cacciatore was also on my list and turned out to be my favorite place to eat while I was there. I had a ravioli dish which was stuffed with eggplant and came with a fresh tomato sauce. Delicious!! I also enjoyed the atmosphere. There were a few tables full of locals and what seemed to be a table of Italian tourists.

After lunch, I went to look for Il Girasole to see if Alessandra was there. It took me a while to find it and when I did, I could not believe I did not see it sooner as it is located right in the town center. Alessandra wasn’t there and so I left a message saying that I would be back the next morning.

After leaving my message, I went to the tourist information office to get a map of Cortona. I also inquired about the hike up to the church on the top of the hill. The road to take started near where the buses depart and so I went to check the bus schedule and then started on my long hike. It was a very hot day and I ended up with the beginning of a blister. At the top was the Sanctuary of Santa Margherita and a little further up was a fortezza, Fortezza del Girifalco. The cost was 3 euros and it was similar to the fortezza in Montalcino in that it had the wall at the top that you could walk around but it was not as big. I really enjoyed my visit inside the fortezza. The views were spectacular.

After my long walk up to the church and the fortezza, I headed back down a different way which included walking along a few windy roads through the middle of the town. When I got back to the center, I went back to my room to rest my feet for a while. I went back out to look for an internet caffè and spent a little time catching up.

I then headed over to La Logetta for dinner. The food at La Logetta was good but it was a very “touristy” restaurant and I felt that the service was not as genuinely friendly as I find it to be in places which are not frequented by so many tourists. I had bruschetta with tomatoes and a salad with lots of vegetables and delicious tuna.

I was pretty tired after dinner and went back to my B&B for the night.

June 21, 2007

the men of Cortona & Arezzo

Wednesday, June 20th
Wednesday morning I headed out for some breakfast. The B&B I stayed at gives you a ticket for breakfast. You can choose one of three places listed on the card. The one I wanted to eat at was closed and so I went to the Bar Sport Caffè. The most handsome Carabiniere came in and stood next to me as we had our coffees at the bar. I kept trying to steal a few glances without making it too obvious. I was not brave enough to take picture but I can still remember every detail.

After breakfast, I went back over to Il Girasole to see if Alessandra was there. The rolling green door was open but the regular doors were still locked. I peered into the window and a man, who I later found out was her husband, came up to me to tell me that the shop was not open yet. I explained that I was another Slow Traveler and wanted to meet Alessandra. He insisted that I wait right there while he made a phone call. Actually it took him a few minutes as the reception is impossible in Cortona. I thought it was just my phone service but I later found out it is the town. It reminded me so much of the “Can you hear me now?” commercial. I actually tried to explain the commercial to a few people but no one got it. Anyways, he finally reached Alessandra and I told her that I needed to catch the bus that was leaving soon for Arezzo and that I would return around 3 pm.

I walked to the bus stop and sat on one of the park benches to wait for the bus. This man who was also sitting on the bench asked me in Italian if I was a tourist. I told him that I was from Hawaii. He told me that he was from Canada and then we both switched to English. I was very lucky to meet him as I would never have found the train station without him. We chatted on the ride down on the bus and also at the train station for a few minutes before our trains arrived. He was going to Rome and I was going to Arezzo so we took different trains. He had that accent that everyone had in the movie “Fargo” and I had the hardest time paying attention to what he was saying. All I could keep thinking of was the movie. He teaches Roman History and was off to meet some friends to go to a dig down south somewhere in Italy.

Continue reading "the men of Cortona & Arezzo" »

June 22, 2007

so far Rome is very peaceful

Buon giorno!

Thursday, June 21st
I arrived in Rome Thursday afternoon. I took the bus, which was 10 minutes "in ritardo" (late), from Cortona to Camucia where I caught the train to Rome. The bus drops you off in the town of Camucia and then I had to walk (about a 10 minute walk) to the train station. I took the bus the day before as a practice run. Because the bus was late, I only had 10 minutes to get to the train station and so I jogged partway, reaching the station in 5 minutes, only to find out that the train was also 10 minutes "in ritardo"!

The train was a newer regional train and was quite comfortable. I had a 1st class ticket. The 1st class section was full but luckily I found a great seat before it filled up at the Terontola station. We arrived in Rome 20 minutes late. I decided to go to the Trastevere station instead of the Termini to avoid the craziness and long taxi lines at the Termini station. This meant a change at the Tiburtina station. I printed out all the train options in case the train was late for my connection.

Continue reading "so far Rome is very peaceful" »

my day exploring some of ancient Rome

Friday, June 22nd
I have been to Rome 3 times before, either arriving or departing from Rome, but I have never stayed more than 2 or 3 days. I decided for this trip that I would not make any major plans and instead just wander and explore Rome to get to know her a little better.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been very fortunate to find a wonderful apartment in Trastevere. This apartment is usually booked up and so I was very fortunate to find open dates on the availability calendar 4 months before traveling. Usually the apartment is booked up months and months in advance. The piazza where the apartment is located right next to Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. Trastevere is a maze of streets and I have already been lost a few times when taking just one wrong turn. It is always interesting though as I end up finding the most interesting places that I would have never seen if I stayed on the correct path.

I started out my day on Friday on a quest for muesli. The grocery store I shopped in the night before did not have any and so I stopped in a few local stores that sell a little of everything but usually only have 1 or 2 small aisles. The people of Rome have all been so very friendly and kind.

Continue reading "my day exploring some of ancient Rome" »

June 25, 2007

searching for that perfect cup of coffee, Castel Sant' Angelo, & my swollen foot

Saturday, June 23rd
When I walked out the door on Saturday morning, I realized that my right shoe felt tight. I looked down and my right foot was twice as fat as my left foot. My chacos are adjustable and so I spent a little time getting them to fit. I thought, now was the time to be able to wear all of those shoes that never fit me before as my feet are pretty narrow. Well at least one of my feet could wear them.

I started out my day deciding to have a coffee at Tazza d'Oro, a place recommended as one of the best places to have coffee in Rome. The only information I had was that it was near the Pantheon. The walk from my apartment to the Pantheon with stops to take pictures along the way was about 15 minutes. I looked around for the bar. There was a place right across from the Pantheon with a sign difficult to see because of the way the table umbrellas were blocking the sign. I saw a "z" on the sign and assumed it was Tazza d'Oro. It was pretty late in the morning as I spent some time on the internet before leaving the apartment Saturday morning and so there was no one else inside. I figured everyone already had their cup of coffee and was off touring Rome. I went over the the bar which was pretty tiny and thought that was a little odd. I also found it odd that there were no pastries as most bars have an assortment to go with your coffee. I ordered my caffè machiatto and was ready to taste "best" cup of coffee. I thought it was a great coffee and told the bartender that I read this place has one of the best cups of coffee and that they were right. He told me that Sant' Eustachio has the best coffee. I thought that was odd that he would say that when working at Tazza d'Oro. I asked him where Sant' Eustachio was located as I read that the other highly rated place for a cup of coffee was Sant' Eustachio. I had wanted to try their coffee also and would then compare for myself to decide which I liked the best. When I went to pay, I saw some cards on the bar. They were for Zio Ciro which seems to be a chain restaurant, pizzeria, caffè, and gelateria. I couldn't believe that this entire time I was thinking I was at Tazza d'Oro when really I was at Zio Ciro. Well either the power of suggestion worked or they also make a superb coffee as I really enjoyed my morning cup.

Continue reading "searching for that perfect cup of coffee, Castel Sant' Angelo, & my swollen foot" »

June 27, 2007

the rest of my weekend in Rome

Saturday, June 23rd
I had made plans to meet Sandra (slow traveler) on the Ponte Sisto bridge on Saturday night at 6pm. She was staying in the Piazza Farnese area so the bridge was about halfway. I have not been a fan of this bridge. It is a foot bridge, meaning no cars, and there are always aggressive beggars on this bridge. I got there a little early and decided to wait at her end instead of in the middle. The only challenge was trying to find a place in the shade that didn’t reek of urine. The smell of urine is pretty common in many cities in Italy and even some smaller towns. I think that is one reason why many shop keepers wash in front of their shop each day.

When Sandra arrived, we walked over to my apartment. She has been thinking of renting an apartment on her next stay and so I wanted to show her my great find. She was impressed. We had a drink at the bar downstairs and talked about our travels. As it got closer to 8pm, we headed over to Da Giggetto’s for dinner. I cannot rave enough about this restaurant. When eating at the Hostaria da Nerone the day before, I saw the fried artichokes on the menu but was not sure how to eat one so I decided to wait until Saturday night to figure this out, thinking that Sandra may have eaten one before. Well it was a new experience for both of us. We ordered both the famous Carciofi alla Giudea and also some stuffed zucchini flowers. The fried artichokes were very good but the stuffed zucchini flowers…Mama Mia! They were excellent. I have had fried zucchini flowers before but never the famous stuffed ones with anchovies inside. I have not been a big anchovy fan but these were incredible. I ordered another one and Sandra ordered a rice ball. The rice ball was also very good. Incredibly, I cannot even remember what else I ate. I guess I could not get the zucchini flowers out of my brain. Sandra, if you read this please fill in the blanks. I remember that she had a caccia e pepe pasta but other than that it is a mystery. I loved this restaurant and am definitely going back there again at least once if not more than once before I leave Rome.

After dinner we walked over to the Piazza Campidoglio. It is a beautiful piazza both by day and at night. We also walked toward the back and enjoyed the view of the forum at night and then walked back through a little of the ghetto area. We ended up at the turtle fountain. What a great night. We decided to have dinner again together the following night. We walked together as far as the Ponte Garibaldi bridge and said our goodbyes. It was now almost midnight. I could not believe the size of the crowds out and about walking around. It was packed with people. It was like walking down a narrow street right after a concert just got out. Stores were open, people were buying gelato, kids were still out. Simply amazing.

Continue reading "the rest of my weekend in Rome" »

a day of statues & fountains and a visit to the Jewish museum

Monday, June 25th
When I awoke on Monday morning, my ankle was looking better. It was still slightly swollen but the redness on my leg was gone and I was able to tighten my shoe a little. The weather was sunny and very HOT! I had not yet been to the Campo de' Fiori in the morning. I think I have been spoiled by the big Venice fruit and vegetable market next to the fish market as this market seemed smaller in size. I walked around and decided on a nectarine and then headed over to the Sant' Eustachio bar for a caffè macchiato and brioche. I thought the coffee was good but nothing to rave about. Perhaps it is the special coffees they offer that are all the rage there. The bar was not very crowded. This is one of the places where you need to pay first. Everyone was very friendly and nice there.

After having my morning coffee, I went over to the Piazza della Minerva. I have wanted to see the elephant statue in this piazza ever since seeing Janet's amazing picture of this statue. It was another "wow" sighting in Rome. After taking a few pictures of the elephant, I went into the church, the Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva. This church was incredibly beautiful and houses the famous Michelangelo's statue of Christ risen from the tomb.

Being so close to the Pantheon, I had to go inside once again. I don't think I will ever feel like I have spent too much time in this famous site. I then stopped in a few shops, and ended up somehow on the street of the famous Giolitti gelateria and pasticceria. It was now lunchtime. It was so hot outside. I could not pass up stopping in for a gelato. Because of the heat, I decided on fruit flavors. I ordered a small cone with peach and kiwi flavors. Besides the gelato being so much better in Italy than in the US, the size and cost are very different. Here in Italy, when ordering the smallest gelato (which will usually cost between 1.80 and 2.00 euros) you always get 2 flavors and the size of the scoops are usually very large. I could probably manage to eat a medium size gelato but I don't think I could finish a large gelato. WOW the kiwi was amazing! The peach was also very good. I have to say that I agree that this is a very good gelateria. I guess I would have to order the same pistachio and nocciola flavors I have been ordering to say if it was the best gelateria. I may have to take that test before I leave.

Continue reading "a day of statues & fountains and a visit to the Jewish museum " »

June 29, 2007

another day of statues at the Musei Capitolini and my "slug" day

Tuesday, June 26th
Tuesday was another hot and muggy day. The weather was also very overcast and a bit cloudy at times. In the morning, I had coffee and a delicious brioche with the woman renting me the apartment at her apartment nearby. Because my apartment was rented starting this Saturday and I wanted to stay in Rome until Monday, she was kind enough to rent me her place for the last two nights since she would be away on holiday. After a lovely chat and a quick tour of how everything worked in her apartment, I headed across the Ponte Garibaldi to explore more of Rome. When making my reservations last February, I also inquired with other apartments in Rome. The owners of one of the apartments were very nice and suggested that we meet for a coffee while I was in Rome. I gave them a call while walking over the bridge and they happened to be in a bar just on the other side. We found each other by calling each other a few time, saying just where we were, and then waving as we got closer. We went to a bar near the Campo to sit and chat for a while. We talked about many things including Rome and Hawaii. They also gave me a few tips on places to see while here as well as a great bookstore to visit. It has been wonderful to meet so many interesting people during my travels, one of the things I love about traveling. After leaving the bar, we headed over to a tea shop that their friend owns. I spent some time in the shop and ended up buying some interesting tea from South Africa.

I then went to an internet place to check on my pictures which I had burned onto CDs. I have the Apacer Disc Steno 200 which can burn pictures from your memory cards. It has worked wonderfully in the past but has been acting up a bit this year only allowing me to burn one card even if there is more space left. I always check to make sure all of my pictures actually have transferred before deleting them from my memory cards. The computer at my apartment is an older computer and does not have a place to insert a CD and so an internet place is the perfect solution. There is one in Piazza Sant' Andrea near the Campo which Sandra pointed out to me that charges 4.40 euros per hour which is pretty cheap.

After checking on all of my pictures, I decided to go back to my apartment for lunch. I did not want to walk around all day with my CDs and memory cards. I made a Caprese salad. Oh, I wish the Buffalo di Mozarella cheese was available in Hawaii. What a simple and delicious lunch.

Continue reading "another day of statues at the Musei Capitolini and my "slug" day" »

July 1, 2007

a day at the amazing Basilica

Thursday, June 28th
Thursday morning I awoke to another beautiful day. The skies were blue and the humidity was gone. What more could you ask for! The few clouds in the skies even disappeared by mid afternoon. Thursday would be my day to spend at the Basilica di San Pietro (St. Peter’s Basilica).

I had read that there was a wonderful walk up to a park (the Gianicolo or Janiculum) which is located between Trastevere and the Basilica. It was a steep walk up with a staircase at the top or end of the hill of about 50 stairs leaving your legs wobbling a little when you reached the top. The Gianicolo or Janiculum is said to be the second tallest hill in Rome (although not one of the seven famous hills). Once you reach the top, you then take "la passeggiata del Gianicolo" through this beautiful park, where there are little statues (heads) of important Romans. There you will also find a very large statue or monument of Garibaldi, a smaller statue of Anita Garibaldi, who I am guessing was his wife, and also a lighthouse! In addition, there are amazing views of Rome at the Gianicolo. There is a cannon that fires once from the Gianicolo at precisely noon every day to signal the exact time.

After enjoying the park and walking up from Trastevere, I started to head down on the other side to reach the Basilica. I ran into an English couple who told me that they walked through this big parking lot from the Vatican area to the park. The map was not very clear on the path to take. I asked this friendly Italian woman for directions on my way down. She said she was going that way and I could walk with her. She would just step right out in front of cars. I would keep stopping and she would just grab my arm and tell me to come on. It was as if she had a magic hand. She would put her hand out and stare down the cars as she walked out into the street. We had a very nice chat on the way down. She left me at the parking lot where she went to catch a bus. Once you walk through this underground parking lot, the other side ended up being right at the piazza where the Basilica is located. There was one part on my walk where there was this definite "vista view" photo moment. I really wanted to take that picture but if I did, I would lose my guide and then definitely be lost. Ah, the photo that could have been...

Continue reading "a day at the amazing Basilica" »

another wonderful day exploring Rome and my right foot

Friday, June 29th
Friday morning, I turned on the TV to check out the latest news. The apartment has Sky TV, a cable network which includes Fox, Cnn International, and some British news channels. I checked out the weather on Meteo 24 hours and then flipped to the US news. There I saw the information about the car abandoned in London set to explode. This story was on every news channel. Thankfully there was a witness that realized that something was odd and called the police or I could have been watching a horrific story instead.

I made lunch at my apartment and watched this story for a while. When I finally left my apartment, it was about 1pm. I stopped in the Santa Maria in Trastevere church since I had not visited it yet on this trip. There was a wedding taking place, so I only stayed for a few minutes. This is a very beautiful church with amazing mosaics inside. I took a couple of photos and then headed on to the Pantheon to finally try that espresso at Tazza d'Oro.

At Tazza d'Oro, I felt that the service was friendly. My opinion on the coffee was that it was very good but nothing spectacular to go out of your way for. It is pretty difficult to find a bad tasting espresso here in Italy. One of the wonderful things I love about being in Italy.

Continue reading "another wonderful day exploring Rome and my right foot" »

my last weekend in Roma and in Italia

Big trip to Italy is coming to an end. How did the time go by so quickly? I have so enjoyed my time here in Rome as well as all of the other places I have visited this year. Here's my post about my last weekend in Rome.

Saturday, June 30th
Saturday, after moving apartments, I headed back over to the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) to take the mandatory hand in the mouth picture. The line was much shorter this time and so I got in the line and waited my turn. It's sort of funny doing this silly thing as everyone waits patiently for their turn and then runs over to the face, sticks their hand in, and someone else quickly snaps the picture.

After leaving the Bocca della Verità, I headed over to see Trajan's markets. Either it was closed or I was in the wrong location. There were still more ruins to see along the way and so I took more pictures of ancient ruins and then headed back to the Colosseum. I was getting hungry and took a short diversion back to Hostaria da Nerone for lunch. I walked in the door and there was the same waiter that was so nice to me and insisted that I needed a handsome man to have lunch with. He again asked why I was alone. I had the spaghetti with clams again and it was wonderful! I stopped by my table often and chatted with me.

When I was leaving, he recommended that I go see the Domus Aurea. I headed over to what I thought was the correct location for this site and was not sure what I was missing. Yes there were some ruins but nothing so spectacular that would warrant a recommendation to see this site. A guy came and asked me if I knew where the Domus Aurea was. I told him I was also looking for it as I thought it was something you had to pay to see and could not believe that the ruin we were standing in front of was it. We both decide to walk around and look together. There were some shady characters on one side of this big park and so I did not go over to that side to see if that was where the entrance was. We finally found it down a few stairs and found out that it was closed on the weekends! I believe if I remember correctly it was only open Tues-Fri. So, I guess I missed out on that one on this trip. I will just have to return again!

Continue reading "my last weekend in Roma and in Italia" »

July 4, 2007

home again and missing Italy already

Happy 4th of July! I arrived home safely last night. Now to unpack and work on my photos. Hopefully I can get a few ready to post soon. First I need to organize them. Half are burned on CDs and half are still on the memory cards and I am running out of space on my computer.

Monday, July 2nd
My departure from Rome:

Monday morning, I finished packing, making sure my liquids were all in their proper locations. A driver came to pick me up and about 40 minutes later I was at the airport. The Fiumicino (Rome) airport is a little more confusing than the Malpensa (Milan) airport. It is not as well marked with signs. I saw a long line and headed that way to see if that was where I needed to be. It was indeed the first step in order to check in - the first passport check line.

I have flown out of Milan the past few years and so I was used to finding my airline first, standing in that passport check line, and then checking in my bag & getting my boarding pass. Here in Rome, if you are flying one of about 10 airlines, you stand in one long line, which covers all the listed airlines to have your passport checked. It seemed pretty trivial to me as in Milan, at least they check to see if your name is on a specific list (some sort of watch list?), but in Rome there is a woman who looks quickly at your passport and then lets you through. You then have to show your passport again about 3 or 4 more times so I don’t really see the point to this initial line.

The line took about 20 minutes to get through. I arrived at the airport 2 1/2 hours before my flight left. I was not in a rush and so the difficulty for everyone to wait orderly in line, which seems very common in Italy, was not a big deal.

Once I was through that line, there were more long lines ahead. Luckily for me, they were for Delta and Alitalia. When I reached the Continental check in, there were only 4 or 5 people waiting with 2 agents available. Once again, no lines, no wait; one of the things I love about Continental. My bag weighed 16.3 kg, which is about 36 pounds – 3 more pounds than when I left. I was given a “brava” and thumbs up by the ticket agent.

Next stop was passport control. This one was the “official” passport checkpoint where you have to stand behind the official yellow line. I got my stamp and a friendly smile. The security area was pretty routine. Everything in the bins, although shoes did not need to be removed.

They had to put my small carry-on through three times and then had a short conversation about my bag. I finally suggested that they open it so that everyone would not have to wait any longer for my bag to clear. The guy looked in my bag, which was pretty packed. He moved a couple of things around and then said it was fine.

There are quite a few shops in the Rome airport, including a place to grab a bite to eat. I went to the bar inside this place which sold different foods to order my last coffee. I was told that I had to pay first. Since I also planned to grab a quick bite to eat for lunch, I checked out the food before going to pay for my coffee. I saw something called a sfiziaforno filled with spinach and cheese that looked delicious. I was not sure how to pronounce it. The man at the cash register had a good laugh and then helped me pronounce the word.

Having to go to the cashier first to pay for what you want to order is one situation which can be stressful for those that do not speak any Italian as you can’t just point to what you want to order since the cash register is not near all the food items. While I was in line waiting to order, a lady asked me to help her order, which I was happy to do.

My last coffee and meal in Italy. I must say the sfiziaforno was indeed delicious.

The plane ride from Rome to Newark was pretty routine. I sat next to a high school boy who was traveling with his family. I was able to sleep part of the way and watched movies the rest of the time.

When we landed, we went to the passport control area. There we encountered this guy who seemed to think he was “king” of keeping people in orderly lines. He almost started a little revolt. He decided that the line would bunch up too much if we all just stood in one line and so, starting with me, he made us all go through this little rat maze, you know the silly bank zigzag lines which are pointless when there are not enough people to fill up all of the lines. We must have had to go up and down those lines about 12 times and in the end came out in the same place in one big line.

Then we encountered the “queen” of keeping people in orderly lines. There were about 9 passport control agents stamping tickets. We had to wait to be told where to stand. Everyone was very orderly while getting to this point and we could have easily figured out this on our own much more easily and more efficiently than the "queen". When my turn came, I was told to go down to the end, when there was a line right in front of me with only 2 people waiting. Instead, I ended up getting behind this family, which must have had something suspicious with their passports, as it took forever. I ended up being one of the last people out of there.

Next stop, baggage. It was the usual, everyone standing around watching the bags go round and round. I am always so happy to see my bag after previous times when my bag did not show up.

Finally, customs. I was asked if I had any food. Now why do they have us list what we are bringing in if they do not read it? I mentioned that I had sun dried tomatoes. “Dried tomatoes?” Big star on my paper and no passing go. Instead I was diverted to the customs area. There, the custom agent asked again what foods I brought in. I mentioned that it was all listed on the back. I was asked again. I said “sun dried tomatoes”. He realized that they were not a threat but since I was there, I had to have my bags go through the x-ray machine anyways. At least they did not need to search them or confiscate my tomatoes.

What really ticked me off was what the next agent at the other end of the x-ray machine did. He threw my bags down on the floor onto this metal plate. The first bag he threw down was one of my carry-ons. I can’t remember what I said, but I was not happy. He realized that I was not happy and replied that it was a good thing for the bags to go down on the ground (meaning that they did not need to be searched). I did not care if they needed to be searched. I did care that he was throwing may bags down onto a metal plate. Just as I started to ask if I could please pick up the bags off the shelf because I had some things that were fragile inside, down went my second bag. At least that one was my check in bags which was probably already thrown around. He did allow me to pick up my other carry on. I ended up being the last one out of there from my flight.

Next challenge, find my hotel. I was staying at the Mariott Airport Hotel and had no idea how to get there. Again, no signs, but there was a person helping anyone who seemed lost. She told me to go up the escalator and take the air train to P4. That did not make much sense to me, but I followed a few others also needing to find P4. It was pretty easy in the end. When you arrive at P4, there is a board with a phone and a bunch of phone codes to push to reach your hotel. The shuttle came right away and the driver was very nice. The check in procedure was quick and easy.

My treat for Monday night was to meet Kim from Slow Travel. I really enjoyed our time together. We ended up eating at a pizza/sub place after we found out that the restaurant we planned to go to was closed for the holiday. The sub was delicious and the company was wonderful. Thanks again Kim!!

My bed was soooo comfy! I ate some cherries, trying out the jet lag remedy once again.

Tuesday, July 3rd
I felt very refreshed, or so I thought the next morning. I had the buffet breakfast, checked out, and headed to the airport.

No line at the Continental check in. I was curious to see the weight of my bag but it was not even weighed. There were only a few people ahead of me at the security x-ray line. Again, my smaller carry-on had to be screened 3 times. I offered to open it for them but they said it was ok. I still can’t figure out what the big mystery was in my bag.

I then had to pee, story of my life, so first stop was the bathroom. I walked in and couldn’t figure out why one of the male pilots was in the ladies room. Then, I realized that there were 4 or 5 other men standing there washing their hands. I was in the men’s bathroom!! Thank goodness the toilets were not right out in the open!

After using the ladies room, I checked the board and saw that my 1:30 flight said it was taking off at 3pm. Since I had plenty of time, I went into a couple of stores and then found my gate. When I got there, it still said 3pm. I went back into a few more stores and then headed back to my gate. It now said 1:30!

After being in a fog, standing in the men’s bathroom, I was a little concerned that I was losing it! I had to go ask if it really did say 3pm at one time. It did indeed. I asked what time the flight would start boarding and he said probably not till 1:30, which obvious meant it was not really leaving at 1:30.

We ended up boarding from 1:30 to 2pm and then spent the next half hour playing musical chairs to accommodate all of these families who did not have seats together. I was one of the people asked to move. It didn’t really matter much to me as I was sitting near kids either way and the move seemed to be next to a few less kids. Little did I realize there was a girl who threw lots of tantrums sitting right behind the seat that I moved to. I sat next to a 3rd grade teacher and her mother who was an educational assistant in a special ed class. None of us were thrilled with the constant tantrums from either the boy in front of us or the girl behind us. Other than that, and the fact that we left 90 minutes late, my flight was fine. They did not have my special meal listed but instead offered me the Kosher meal. Wow, that was the best airline meal I have ever eaten. From now on, it will be Kosher meals for me!

July 7, 2007

tour of the Clock Tower in Venice

Now to catch up on what I have not yet posted...

One of the highlights of my visit to Venice was my tour of the Clock Tower or Torre dell'Orologio. In order to take this tour, you must make a reservation in advance. Three English tours are offered each day. The cost is 12 euros. There are a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 12 people per visit. I had some difficulty with my credit card making my reservation and was fortunate to have Katia to help me with this.

Sunday, June 10th
My tour was not scheduled until Wednesday. I was pretty excited about this tour and headed to see the clock tower early Sunday morning, the day after I arrived in Venice to take a few pictures. I was lucky to get a few shots before the crowds arrived. Here is one of my favorite pictures:


Wednesday, June 13th
Wednesday morning finally arrived, the day of my Clock Tower tour!! I took a traghetto over to the the Rialto Market area to search out a bar that I read about for some coffee. I was not able to fine it but instead found a great little bar on the corner of Ramo de la Donzela. The only sign I could find was "Wine Bar", which was written on one of those little slates along with a list of drinks and things to eat outside the bar. After having a great coffee and a delicious pastry, I spent a little bit of time at the Rialto Market. I love looking at all the interesting fish and the delicious produce.

I then headed over to the Museo Correr. I arrived about 20 minutes before my tour. I gave my email reservation number to the man at the ticket office and was told that my ticket for the tour would also allow me to visit the Museo Correr. He suggested that I visit for a while and return just before 10am. My plan was to visit this museum in more depth later in the day but since I had a little time before my tour was to start, I entered the museum and spent a little time in a few of the rooms. I will talk more about the museum in a later post as I did return and spend quite a bit of time enjoying the many rooms and items on display.

Continue reading "tour of the Clock Tower in Venice" »

July 8, 2007

visit to the Basilica di San Marco

Wednesday, June 13th
After finishing my Clock Tower tour, now that I understood all about the different ways the time was displayed, I wanted to watch the time change and the bell rung by the Mori. I took another little video of the time changing and bell ringing but again, I need to figure out how to do the youtube thing before posting the video.

In addition to the time that is displayed with the numbers on the two wheels (see previous post), there are two more clock faces. The clock face on the front of the tower under the Virgin Mary displays the time of day, the Zodiac sign, and the current phase of the moon:


The clock face on the back of the tower, which you can see when taking the street to Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) I believe only displays the time:


It was a little after 11 am. I realized there was only a tiny line to get into the Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark's Basilica). I hadn't planned to go into the Basilica as I had been before, but I couldn't resist with such a short line!

My first stop inside was to go up top where the horses are located to get yet another view of the Clock Tower as well as the rest of Piazza San Marco. It was pretty packed but I managed to find a few spots which were not so crowded. For those that don't know, the horses up on the balcony are replicas. The original horses are located inside and with no photos allowed.

Continue reading "visit to the Basilica di San Marco" »

July 10, 2007

views from my 2nd tower of the day

Wednesday, June 13th
The island of San Giorgio Maggiore has always fascinated me.


I have taken many pictures of this island from afar but I have never actually visited this island. After a wonderful lunch, I headed back to take a vaporetto to finally go into the church that dominates the island and to go to the top of the clock tower.

The vaporetto was a little tricky to find as there were either two or three docks close together (am having difficulty recalling the exact number now) and I was not sure which one would take me to San Giorgio Maggiore. I went to the wrong dock, but was redirected. I still was not sure if I was at the correct dock (which is why I am thinking there must have been three docks) but then saw the route on the board and knew I was in the correct place. The vaporetto for this route did not run as regularly as the others. Fortunately for me the next vaporetto was set to arrive in about 10 minutes. The boat was not too crowded. This allowed me to take some good close up shots of the island.

Continue reading "views from my 2nd tower of the day" »

July 12, 2007

the Sargent exhibit and the Correr Museum

Thursday, June 14th
I awoke Thursday morning to a cloudy day. It was tough to figure out if the clouds meant rain. I brought my raincoat with me just in case.

After having my morning coffee, I went in search once again for Peter Pan, the mask store I had been searching for. I took the vaporetto over the San Stae stop and tried to retrace my steps from last year when I stayed near that stop.

Just after getting off the vaporetto, the skies opened up and the rain came pouring down. I was glad I decided to carry my raincoat with me. Even with my raincoat on, I was drenched. I saw a few older ladies stopped under archways waiting for the rain to stop. To me, it looked like it would be raining all day. I walked as close as I could to the edge of the road to try to escape some of the rain. After about 20 minutes, the rain stopped.

Continue reading "the Sargent exhibit and the Correr Museum" »

July 16, 2007

my last day in Venice

Friday, June 15th
Friday was my last full day in Venice. It was an overcast day which reflected my mood as I was not yet ready to leave Venice. My first stop of the day was to a little pasticceria shop on Strada Nova in Cannaregio for my morning coffee and a pastry. I ordered one of those delightful pastries from Naples called a sfogliatelle. The pastry was delicious but there should be a warning placed on this pastry saying “Do Not Eat in Public”. I made such a mess. I must have gone through at least 10 napkins.

After leaving the pasticceria, I wandered through more of the Cannaregio area. I wandered down the Fondamenta degli Ormesini, through the Ghetto area, and also down the Canale di Cannaregio. I took some photos along the way:


Continue reading "my last day in Venice" »

July 17, 2007

weekend in Coccaglio

One of the highlights of my visit to Italy every year is time spent with my friends in Italy. Unfortunately, it did not work out to meet up with Francesco & Irene this year, but I did get to spend another wonderful weekend with Katia & Guido in Coccaglio. They recently married and are living in a wonderful little apartment nearby Katia's parents' house.

Saturday, June 16th
After finishing up my last minute packing, I grabbed a quick coffee and then headed to the Ca' Doro vaporetto stop. I was a little nervous about how packed the vaporetto would be as there were many other people also waiting with their bags to head to the train station. The vaporetto was pretty full, but at least we were not packed in like sardines. I have heard of having to pay extra when taking luggage onboard. So far, I have never had to pay.

I took a Eurostar train to Brescia where Katia met me. We headed back to her apartment and had lunch.

View of a monastery above Coccaglio:

After lunch, we went to Guido's shop to see if he could fix my suitcase. I was hoping that he could get it to go all the way up and down but at the very least, I needed for it to close or the airline, which by the way damaged my handle, would not let me check the bag and it was too big to carry on. Guido took the handle apart. It was pretty interesting seeing the inside of a luggage handle. Even with a little oil, it was not going to budge. He finally found the problem. There was a huge dent in the metal halfway down one of the handles. My bag must have been dropped from pretty high up and had to have landed on something hard for it to dent like that. Guido was able to get the handle to close but we could not make it go up any higher.

Continue reading "weekend in Coccaglio" »

July 18, 2007

the Two Towers in Bologna

Monday, June 18th
Bologna is known for its food, its porticoes and its towers. At one point in history, many have said that there were up to 180 towers in Bologna although more recent studies now suggest that the number is closer to 80 - 100 towers. Click here to see a panoramic picture of Bologna in the 11th century. Less than 20 towers remain today.

The two famous towers in Bologna are the Garisenda Tower and the Asinelli Tower. It is pretty difficult to get both towers from top to bottom in one picture. I took this picture on my walk over to the towers from the main piazza in Bologna


Both of the towers are leaning towers. The Garisenda Tower is shorter, leans more, and is not available for climbing. It is the tower pictured above on the left. The Asinelli Tower is the taller of the two towers, the tower I climbed, and the tower pictured on the right. I have read that there are 498 steps to the top. I lost count on my way up. It definitely was a challenging tower to climb.

Continue reading "the Two Towers in Bologna" »

July 25, 2007

more of beautiful Bologna

For this post, I wanted to share more of Bologna. Leslie, I hope this continues to inspire you!! The following pictures are of the porticoes and the beautiful buildings and colors of Bologna.





The next three photos were taken inside the Palazzo Communale, one of the buildings in Piazza Maggiore. I learned from Matt L.'s Everything Bologna travel notes that "the Pope had the stairs built with wooden planks at set intervals so that a horse drawn carriage (presumably his) could ride up to the second floor."




This picture shows some of the colorful buildings you will see in Bologna.


And finally, here is my amazing "single" room at Hotel San Porta Mamolo in Bologna!! Check out the couch!! AND look at all that space! A great find!!


July 27, 2007

a few more photos of Bologna

The Basilica di San Petronio is the 5th largest church in the world. As you can see the top half was never finished. This makes it a rather unique church today.


In this picture, you can see the sculptures by Jacopo della Quercia on the top of the main doorway, the Porta Magna.


The next three pictures are of the Palazzo Communale, also found in Piazza Maggiore.




Right next to Piazza Maggiore, is Piazza del Nettuno. This piazza is slightly smaller and opens up into Piazza Maggiore. Here you will find the interesting statue of Neptune.


The following two pictures were also taken while in Piazza del Nettuno. I took the first picture earlier when all the scaffolding and workmen had the basilica roped off. The second picture is of the Palazzo di Re Enzo (Palace of King Enzo).



July 28, 2007

food pics from Bologna

One more entry for Bologna and then I will move onto Rome. The food in Bologna is definitely one of the highlights of this wonderful city. Here are a few pictures that I took during my afternoon there:


Continue reading "food pics from Bologna" »

July 30, 2007

on to Rome...the Piazza Navona

I took tons and tons of pictures while in Rome. I am still going through them trying to decide what to keep and what to delete.

Where to start when sharing my images from Rome? After some thought, I decided on starting with Piazza Navona since it was where I started after arriving in Rome.

There are three fountains in Piazza Navona. On one end, you will find the
Fontana di Nettuno or Fountain of Neptune

Continue reading "on to Rome...the Piazza Navona" »

August 5, 2007

a few body parts from the Musei Capitolini

One of the highlights of my trip this summer was my visit to the Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums). The Musei Capitolini are said to be the oldest public museums in the world. The history of these museums can be traced back to 1471. The Musei Capitolini are located on the famous Campidoglio or Monte Capitolino (Capitoline Hill). The collections of art, statues, archeological remains, and other items are housed in three main buildings which surround the Piazza del Campidoglio and are interlinked by an underground gallary beneath the piazza.

The ticket cost 8 euros. I believe the cost for the audioguide, which I would highly recommend, was about 5 euros. When you rent the audioguide, you need to leave an ID. My copy of my passport worked.

The entrance into the museums is through the Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori. I'm not sure how, but I did not know about these museums until this spring, while reading up on Rome. I saw a few pictures of parts of a statue in this courtyard, the Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, and I immediately put a visit to the Musei Capitolini as a must on my list of things to do while in Rome. The museums were even more amazing than I imagined.

Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori
Colossal statue of Constantine: right hand
313-324 AC

Continue reading "a few body parts from the Musei Capitolini" »

August 9, 2007

elephants and turtles

In Piazza della Minerva, you will find a very cute elephant. This elephant is the base for an Egyptian obelisk. The Roman name for this statue is "Pulcino della Minerva". The statue is located in front of the Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva and behind the Pantheon.


Continue reading "elephants and turtles" »

August 14, 2007

a different view of a building in Trastevere

While changing my memory card in Trastevere, I noticed this interesting reflection of some apartments. My camera was pointing down onto the hood of a shiny car. I could not think of a title for this photo but thought it was pretty cool.


October 14, 2007

images from Castel Sant'Angelo

The Castel Sant'Angelo has always intrigued me. The first couple of times I visited Rome, I never had enough time to visit the Castel Sant'Angelo. This past summer, I finally spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon inside this mysterious castle. The admission was 5 euros. Here are some images from my visit.

Ponte Sant'Angelo with the Castel Sant'Angelo in the background:

Continue reading "images from Castel Sant'Angelo" »

cat at Castel Sant' Angelo

After spending a few wonderful hours enjoying the Castel Sant' Angelo, I headed to the bookstore. Outside sat a gorgeous cat. We quickly made friends. I must have spent 30 minutes just hanging out with her. I am sure she would have been a little happier if I had some food to share but I think she appreciated the attention I gave her. If I lived in Rome, I might have considered taking her home with me, but since there is a certain cat quarantine issue in Hawaii, I sadly said goodbye, and instead took a few images home with me.


Continue reading "cat at Castel Sant' Angelo" »

November 11, 2007

views from the base of the Cupola of the Basilica di San Pietro

While in Rome this past summer, I had the opportunity to once again climb to the top of the Cupola of the Basilica di San Pietro (dome of St. Peter's Basilica).

After climbing 323 steps, I was treated to an amazing view from the interior gallery at the base of the Cupola. Although I chose to climb the first portion, there is also the choice of taking a lift to reach this point. However, from the base of the Cupola to the top, the only way to get there is by climbing more steps (I believe it was 228 more steps).

In this post, I would like to share a few pictures that I took from the interior gallery at the base of the Cupola.


Continue reading "views from the base of the Cupola of the Basilica di San Pietro" »

November 12, 2007

onward to the top

After leaving the interior gallery at the base of the Cupola, I continued my climb to the top for some magnificent views. I took this picture from the roof below. If you look closely, you can see all the people along the bottom railing. This is where you end up when you reach the top.

Continue reading "onward to the top" »

November 18, 2007

views from the roof of the Basilica di San Pietro

After taking in the 360 views at the top of the Cupola, my last stop on my " Cupola climb” adventure was a visit on the roof of the Basilica. Because it was extremely crowded at the top, I was relieved to find a lot of open space down on the roof. This was my favorite part of the climb.

The roof houses a coffee shop, a gift shop, and restrooms. I must comment that I was quite impressed with the cleanliness of the women's restroom on the day I was there.

While on the roof, you are allowed to walk around, get up close with the statues, and you are rewarded with more incredible views. I spent quite a bit of time just hanging out and enjoying the views.

I also went inside the bar to get a cup of coffee. I mentioned in my July post about a possible trivia question about the roof coffee bar. “Where in Italy will you get an espresso served in a tiny paper cup (and I mean tiny, even smaller than a dixi cup)?” Answer - at the bar on the rooftop of the Basilica.

A few of my favorite pictures from the roof of the Basilica:

Continue reading "views from the roof of the Basilica di San Pietro" »

February 9, 2008

car in piazza

This car was parked in Piazza Sant'Egidio (Trastevere, Rome) a few doors down from the apartment I rented. I took this photo last summer.


March 9, 2008

a little trattoria in Trastevere

I walked by this cute little trattoria one day in Trastevere last summer and couldn't pass up taking a photo. I never found out the name. If you have been to Rome, have you eaten here?


March 29, 2008

"high"~ PhotoHunt


When reading Leslie's Kaleidoscope post today, I was reminded of PhotoHunt, a cool photo posting idea, and thought I would give it a try.

Photo Hunt was started in March 2006 by

"A theme is given each Saturday. Post a photo that best represents the theme. New and old photos welcome."

This week's PhotoHunt Saturday theme is High:

It certainly looks like a long way up!! (Asinelli Tower in Bologna).

From the top ~ looking down at the Garisenda Tower and the tiny people below.

April 19, 2008

"thirteen (13)" ~ PhotoHunt





This week's PhotoHunt was a tough one. All week long, I have been counting groups of things. I found 12 beautiful palm trees in a row, 7 great hibiscus flowers on a bush, but I have yet to find a group of 13 items that would make a good photo. I also searched through my photos with not much luck there either. I ended up going with a few photos with signs (even though next week's PhotoHunt has to do with signs). I figured with this choice, I could add a little bit of trivia to my post.

The word rione (plural - rioni) comes from the Latin word regio (plural - regiones) meaning regions. If Wikipedia is correct, the rioni in Rome were established for the first time in the 4th century BC by Servius Tullius, with only four, which at the time were called regiones (the plural of regio). More regions were added since then and they have been changed often over the years. Currently, there are 22 rioni.

R. XIII refers to the Trastevere rione of Rome.

April 26, 2008

"unique/funny signs" ~ PhotoHunt


I couldn't find anything too funny or unique nor did I see any unique/interesting signs in the past few weeks. Here is what I have:

I found the first sign interesting because of the misleading information on the sign.

While in Rome last summer, I decided to check out the Palazzo Barbarini. Because it was Monday, I was not sure if it would be open. I met a nice Italian man who was also standing outside the gate wondering the same thing. It looked like it might be open so we both headed toward the ticket door. There we saw the sign: "aperto tutti i giorni/open every day 9-19:30" AND THEN underneath: "chiuso lunedì/closed on Monday". Now, please explain to me how this sign makes sense. After we read: "open every day", we both were excited that it was open even though it was a Monday, but then we read the second line and realized that it was closed. We both shook our heads in amazement over the conflicting information. We even went as far as the entrance in hopes that the "open every day" part of the sign meant that it was open. As we were leaving, an American man and his son came walking up. I told them that the museum was closed. They asked why and said it wasn't Sunday. I replied, "No, it's Monday".

I found this sign interesting because of the name (also taken in Rome).

May 4, 2008

my hike in Cortona

I still have so many photos to share from my trip to Cortona in June, 2007. When originally blogging about this trip, I only had access to a computer at an internet café. I am finally adding photos to this trip. Here is my original post and below is a summary and a photo album of the hike I took.

After a long train ride to Cortona, finding a taxi, settling in, and having lunch, I spent my first afternoon in Cortona hiking up to the Sanctuary of Santa Margherita and the Fortezza del Girifalco. It was a long hike uphill. Although it was a hot afternoon, the views were spectacular. When I finally reached the top, I arrived at a huge church, the Sanctuary of Santa Margherita. It was unfortunately closed when I arrived.

I continued walking a little further uphill to reach the Fortezza del Girifalco. The cost to enter the fortezza was 3 euros. There was only one other person visiting this very peaceful fortezza while I was there. I first spent about 30 minutes walking along the wall that surrounded the perimeter along the top (similar to the fortezza in Montalcino) enjoying the views and the cool breeze. I then spent a little bit of time checking out the rooms inside. There were a few art pieces hanging in one or two of the rooms. Although the other rooms were empty, they were also peaceful and cool. After an enjoyable visit, I headed back to town, taking a different path, which took me along a few windy roads through a beautiful area of the town.

Here's a slideshow (album) of my hike in Cortona and my visit to the Fortezza del Girifalco.

hike in Cortona

May 7, 2008

more photos of Cortona

view from the bus stop:

another view from the bus stop - the Santa Maria Nuova Church:

shop in Cortona:

Teatro Signorelli (scenes from the movie Life is Beautiful/La vita è bella were filmed here):

i dolci (sweets):

Continue reading "more photos of Cortona" »

May 10, 2008

"share any photo" ~ PhotoHunt



I took this photo last summer while visiting St. Peter's Basilica.
This is one of my favorite photos from my visit that day.

May 13, 2008

photos of Arezzo

While in Cortona, I took a daytrip to Arezzo, a place I have wanted to see since seeing the movie, Life is Beautiful. I wrote about my visit, "the men of Cortona & Arezzo" while traveling last summer. Here are some photos to go with the post.

The Duomo was HUGE!! Too bad it was closed when I arrived.


Continue reading "photos of Arezzo" »

May 23, 2008

windows in Venice...this is for María

María did a post about her favorite palazzo on the island Murano in the beginning of May. I made a comment on her blog about taking a similar Venice window photo (of course now looking at the two side by side, they really are quite different). María asked me to post my window photo on my blog. Well it took a few weeks, but here finally is that window along with a few more of my favorite Venice window photos.
Do you have a favorite?







Continue reading "windows in Venice...this is for María" »

May 27, 2008

a nice bathroom in Rome

If you are in need of a nice bathroom while you are out and about in Rome, check out the Antico Caffè Greco, located on Via dei Condotti near the Spanish Steps. It is also a cool bar, although I can only personally vouch for the refreshing glass of peach juice I had while there.


Continue reading "a nice bathroom in Rome" »

November 15, 2008

"ruin(ed)"~ PhotoHunt


After “hunting” through all of my photos of ruins from Italy, I decided on this photo of the Ponte Rotto (which means broken bridge). The original name for this bridge was the Pons Aemilius. The Ponte Rotto or Pons Aemilius is the oldest Roman stone bridge. Construction began in 179 BC and was completed in 142 BC. It stood until 1598 when floods “ruined” the bridge. I guess you could say that it is now the “bridge to nowhere”.


December 20, 2008

"wide"~ PhotoHunt ~ take 2


I can't believe how much of a fog I have been in this week. Last weekend after posting my PhotoHunt post "favorite", I checked on the next theme, looked through a few photos and found a photo right away to use! I put it on my desktop and forgot all about it.
I started to think about PhotoHunt again on Thursday night and could not come up with anything for the upcoming "wide" theme until my friend suggested the wide ocean.

Then just a few minutes ago while doing something on my computer, I noticed the wide photo I originally chose last weekend! It has been sitting there all week right in front of my eyes!! is my "wide"~ PhotoHunt ~ take 2 post...

a W I D E foot:

March 14, 2009

"four"~ PhotoHunt




Information on Via delle Quattro Fontane from Yahoo Travel:

"The road was built by Pope Sixtus V and was part of a long straight stretch called the Strada Felice together with the Via Sistina which continues after it meets Piazza Barberini. The name came from the complex of fountains that adorns it at the crossroads of Via XX Settembre and Via del Quirinale. At this point there are four large statues on each corner of the crossroads that represent two rivers, the Arno and Tiber, the goddess Diana and the god Juno."

June 13, 2009

"lock"~ PhotoHunt


The door to the far right of the main entrance of St. Peter's Basilica is called the Porta Santa or Holy Door. This door is not only locked but it is also walled up and is only opened during Holy Years, also known as Jubilee Years. The Holy Years originally occurred every 100 years and later were changed to every 25 years. The Holy Door is also occasionally opened on other proclaimed special occasions. For more information on the Holy Door and for details of how this door is opened, click here.

In 2007, I was at the Basilica late in the afternoon after the crowds left and was able to take a couple of photos of the Holy Door without the usual crowds.



The walled up Holy Door from the inside:


In 2000, during the Jubiliee Year, I was very fortunate, honored, and excited to walk through the Holy Door while it was open. It was very crowded. This was the best photo I could get with my cheap film camera before I was ushered through the door.


Click continue to see close up views of the panels of the door. These panels are from a cropped photo I took of the door.

Continue reading ""lock"~ PhotoHunt " »

March 13, 2010

"spriral"~ PhotoHunt


Two of my favorite tower climbs have spiral staircases:

This staircase leads to the top of the Clock Tower (Torre dell'Orologio) in Venice.

This staircase leads up to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (Torre pendente di Pisa).

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to shave ice & gelato in the italy: 2007 trip category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

holidays is the previous category.

italy: 2008 trip is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.