A Travellerspoint blog

Italy

Milan, Italy

Our gateway city

sunny 80 °F

We came through Milan a few weeks ago on our way to France and we returned for a quick stop before flying to Croatia. We had two main objectives here:

1. Eat gelato
2. Eat pizza

We accomplished the first one by having a fancy gelato while on our walk to our hotel.
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Now we will tell you how we made the best pizza ever!
1. ask hotel staff where to get a good chhheeeeeeeeese pizza
2. go there and order a basic margarita pizza
3. while its being made, go to the grocery store and buy a chunk of fresh mozzarella cheese, a tub of fresh pesto and a liter of wine
4. mix the ingredients together and serve!

Optional: create a fun salad and end up with quite the feast.
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We wanted to see the Duomo lit up in the evening and while on our walk we stumbled across a concert at the Galleria D’Arte Moderna. We sat outside the gates to sneak a listen until we were invited in for a proper seat  The band turned out to be called Violons Barbares and was composed of three musicians one each from France, Bulgaria, and Mongolia. The music was a very entertaining mash-up of drums strings and the Mongolian’s extremely wide vocal range, especially in the low pitches.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 05:20 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Venice, Italy

Wondering the streets and canal ways

sunny 80 °F

As an activity in Venice, we read that we should wander the narrow streets and canal system of Venice and just ‘get lost’. We’ll that wasn’t too hard! Directions from the train station to our apartment were something along the lines of “follow the narrow street, cross over canal, and repeat another 20 times.” One hot afternoon we were near the train station and wanted to head home for a siesta. We decided to forget looking at the directions and instead just follow the crowd in the right direction towards Piazzo San Marco. After about 30 minutes later we saw a big canal up ahead and were so happy to almost be home for lunch… we walked up to the canal with the anticipation and excitement as if we were walking up and over the horizon of a mountain ridge line only to see the train station directly in front of us. We were back to where we started 30 minutes ago!

We scored a sweet little apartment in Venice that gave us the feeling that we actually lived in the city. There were multiple little art galleries in the neighborhood and a little deli where we bought our dinner supplies and some cured meats that the local old guys were buying.
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It is true that Venice is flooded with tourists, and unfortunately a gondola ride is evolved into being completely unromantic. Whenever we saw or heard the singing of a gondola all of the tourists nearby would run over to the nearest bridge to snap a picture and watch not one boat, but a string of 5 or 6 boats go by in a train. Luckily we lived in the heart of the city and early in the morning, and late in the evening (when all of the tourists are in their cruise ships) we found it was possible to get the sense that we were the only people there.
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We were surprised by how much we enjoyed Venice, especially since we almost avoided it entirely due to the numerous people who had called it a tourist trap. It was interesting to experience life without cars, trash is picked up by people pushing carts through the streets and where people buy produce from little boats.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 09:01 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Our first luggage lost … almost!

Where is the orange bag?!

sunny 85 °F

In order to get to Tavernelle, we took a bus to Barbarino from Florence. The only problem was, we weren’t exactly sure where we were getting off. At one point, we started seeing signs to our hostel, and when the bus went a different way, we thought we’d better get off. In a mad rush to gather all of our belongings, ‘someone’ (not to name names) left our orange food bag on the bus. Luckily, we don’t keep much of value in the orange bag, other than snack food and a notepad. So considering how much we eat, we thought we might as well try to get it back.

We headed to the tourist information site to see if there was anything we could do. After about 10 or so phone calls later, the illusive orange bag was located and being held at the left luggage in Florence. A few days later we were in Florence with a two hour layover before catching a train to Venice. Robin high tailed it to the transit office, collected the orange bag, and returned to the train station in just enough time to meet Kevin for the next train to Venice, thus reinstating our no lost luggage* status :-)

p.s. this status technically has a small asterisk for the few things that ‘someone’ lost along the way (including a Nalgene bottle in Australia, a plastic shopping bag containing our lunch in Thailand, and a wool long-sleeved shirt in India). Over all, this was a healthy reminder that we really haven’t had any real issues yet with theft or stupidity. And now the moment you have been waiting for! Just what does this ‘orange bag’ look like!? Well, it’s is orange (surprise!) and has black elephants printed on it. We bought it to specifically have a shoulder strap around it so it couldn’t be easily put down and forgotten (like the lunch bag and Nalgene). Below is the best pic we could find of it (we are in an elevator). Take notice that even with it around her neck and shoulder, Robin seems to be clutching “the orange bag” and guarding it with her life:
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 02:48 Archived in Italy Comments (3)

Tavernelle del Pesa, Italy

Into the Chianti countryside

sunny 85 °F

Just south of Florence is the region of Tuscony - famous for wines and beautiful countryside. The village was quite the happening place with a different festival in the town square every night! The warm summer night air filled with the sounds of a brass band as old Italian men BBQed large cuts of bistecca.
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For dessert we discovered bomboloni! It is our favorite dessert on the trip thus far. Say it out loud with an Italian accent right now, we dare you! Bomboloni! Bomboloni! It fun to say and fun to eat! They inject the hollow donut with either chocolate or cream right in front of you!
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After coming through Rome and Florence, being in the country away from all the tourists was just what we needed. During the day we biked around the vineyards and through the woods to the surrounding picturesque villages with narrow cobble stone streets and flowers hanging outside of their wooden shutter windows.
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We biked up to a fancy hotel offering wine tasting and lucked out with meeting the most amazing Semoneau. He was a young, energetic guy who walked us through the history of the Chianti region, and what distinguishes a Chianti wine from other wines by letting us sample a ton of local wines.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 14:22 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Florence, Italy

Italy makes it into the Eurocup Finals

sunny 90 °F

Crowds filled the courtyards of the city on this warm summer night. We were in Florence ready to support the home team in the Eurocup (soccer) Finals against Spain.
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After the crushing defeat, we walked around the lit up Duomo which seemed almost like a fake backdrop.
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We aren’t much into waiting in long lines to see old painting so we skipped the Uffitzi museum and enjoyed a more peaceful Galileo Museum of Science. We really enjoyed learning about all the old math tools, the first telescopes, and crazy contraptions for telling time and dates. In the basement there was a rotating exhibit called ‘Geometry meets art’ that had some really interesting displays using mirrors and different perspectives to create symmetrical art from something warped and barely recognizable. This piece had a spherical mirror in the middle that reflected the odd shaped numbers in a perfect clock.
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We toured the city by bike in search of a few local recommendations. One of which included a little hole in the wall restaurant followed by the best gelato ever at Gelateria de Medichi! We rode over the Ponte Vechio and by the fake statue of David where we tried to convince some tourists that they used Kevin’s calves as the model for some of the more muscular statues…
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 03:08 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Rome, Italy

Nonstop site seeing

When buying tickets to Rome, we noticed that each day there were two trains that were about 4 times cheaper than the other trains. Turns out that these are “regional trains” that stop more frequently and weren’t going to have aircon…. but hello?!?!? We spent 16 hours on buses in Nepal that would trump any train air-con or not! So we bought the cheap tickets, and crossed our fingers. As the train approached we noticed the windows in every car but two were wide open… we boarded one with closed windows and whalah! We had a whole section of aircon it to ourselves!
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That night we headed straight for the Coliseum area to find a pub to watch the Italy soccer team play Germany in the Eurocup. We were pleasantly surprised to find ample options of outside big screens and with Italy’s victory, the streets were in a roar of excitement, filled with scooters honking and people hanging out of cars waving Italian flags. It only takes a few steps outside of the Coliseum metro stop to realize just how close the ancient sites of Rome are to the city center. It’s a jaw-dropping experience to see the Coliseum up close, especially at night with soccer fans rallying around it.
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For the classic tourist sites (Trevi fountain, St Paul’s Cathedral, Vatican City, etc…) we did a double take by visiting them during the day, had a siesta with gelato, and then went back to them in the evening to see them lit up. The evening walk was much cooler, and more impressive.
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Just walking around Rome and bumping into deep archeological digs or humongous columns could have kept us busy for days; however, Roma had an additional plan for keeping us busy. We rented a room just outside of the city center and ended up with a long and interesting tale regarding our host’s daughter’s school’s English program’s foreign tutor. In short what initially sounded like a rather peculiar request by our host turned out to be fun story that we’ll share with you over a drink sometime.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 01:11 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

Pompeii, Italy

The ancient city at the base of Mt Vesuvius

sunny 90 °F

The story of how Mt Vesuvius erupted early one morning covering the city of Pompeii in molten rock and volcanic ash is just about the only story that Robin recalls from ancient history class. This disaster made Pompeii the best preserved ancient city in the world. As you walk through the city, you can look up and see the magnificent volcano that destroyed and preserved the ancient city of Pompeii. We walked through several houses, the bath house, the court, a temple, the theater, the stadium, and finally through some vineyards that were in the same place that they had been in 79 A.D.
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After a sweltering day in the city of Pompeii, we headed back to Naples to go have a look at the national museum, where many of the findings from the Pompeii excavations are on display. The museum also houses numerous Greek and Roman sculptures that are quite impressive. We felt as though we fit right in with the sculptures.
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There is a must see secret room of the museum that housed ancient phallic artifacts and paintings… in those days hanging a sculpture of a penis on your business door was a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Imagine walking into your dentist and seeing this painting on the wall:
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 04:53 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

Naples, Italy

Our first real pizza!

sunny 90 °F

We blazed through Bari and headed to Naples. We found a hotel, and asked the owner Mario where to get the best local pizza. He drew us a map and told us where to go. We decided to splurge, and ordered the special pizza, not knowing exactly what it was, and our expectations were blown away! It didn’t fit our standard ‘look’ of a good pizza, but once again our expectations didn’t mean anything while traveling… the greenish orange tomatoes that didn’t look tasty at all were sooooo super sweet, it was delicioso!!
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One of our favorite things to do is to walk through grocery stores and look at all the different foods. The first one we went to had isle after isle of boxed pastas and fresh pastas, we weren’t in Kansas anymore!
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We spent a day in the city of Naples just wandering around, stumbling on amazing galleria shopping centers that look like they were straight out of Las Vegas, or is it the other way around?
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We also explored our first castle for the trip. It was fun walking through the spiked iron gates and up the cobble stone streets and a much different feel than the temples we’ve grown accustom to visiting.
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We also spent time sun bathing with the locals on slanted uncomfortable rocks… but that didn’t stop them from lying out all day. It was incredible to watch them lather on baby oil, rotate and freeze to make sure they get every part of their body darkened (notice the ‘white’ guy in the picture behind robin, he must have stood like that for over an hour). They even call sunbathing “sun medicine” here because they sorta believe that the sun can cure anything (not sure if that includes skin cancer!).
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 13:35 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

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