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We awaken at 8 AM. Rather I leap out of bed and into the shower while OL tries to force his body out of bed. We have a huge breakfast at the hotel and take a few croissants and rolls for our afternoon in Pompeii. We assume there is no food there.
OL is hysterical at covertly placing things into his bag. And so our adventure begins.
We walk to the Museo subway entrance and buy tickets at the ticket machine. Then we enter the subway and use the connection from Linea 1 to Linea 2. On our way, we are stopped by metro police to verify we have a ticket. I had them both in my purse. But handed them yesterday’s tickets. After sorting that out, we proceed.
We go one stop to piazza Garibaldi. There we navigate our way through the train station to Circumvesuviana railway. This take roughly half an hour. We then go buy tickets and find out we get the weekend rate of 3€ roundtrip. Nice.
Frommer’s warned us to go to Pompeii scavi not Pompeii the town. So we are careful about which train we board. There is only on track for all Sorento bound trains.
OL has the schedule and times printed out so we wait for the 10:41 train. We board and find out there are 21 stops before Pompeii scavi. 45 minutes later we arrive. The ride is pleasant enough. You can see Vesuvius and the ocean. And a shit load of graffiti which appears to be Italy’s favorite pastime.
When you get off the train it’s a quick walk to the entrance. It’s 11€ to get in. You get a free map and mini guidebook at the info center. The giftshop is mostly books. And it closes early so if you want to buy things do it early on. Also if you’re in a group, you can buy a tour guide to show you around. Something to consider.
We missed #1 in the guidebook. It’s the new bath house with the x rated frescoes. It’s before the main entry gate. Though it may not have been open since many things were locked up when we tried to see them in Pompeii.
Porta Marina is where we entered. We went to the Temple of Venus next. You can see the ocean from there. We wandered through the basilica, which was Pompeii’s version of a stock exchange.
We crossed a section of the Forum and stopped at the Lupanare to see the frescoes on the wall of the brothel. According to the guidebook, people ordered what they wanted according to pictures. One group’s guide mentioned that the pictures were useful for sailors who could point without knowing the language.
Then we saw several ruins on our way to the Great Theater. Next on our to do list was the Isis Temple, which was one of the more intact temples. The temple of Asclepius was next. The Pompeii people had snack bars attached to their homes called, Thermopolium, we saw the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus.
We saw vineyards and the House of the ship ‘Europa’. One of the darkest sights was was the Garden of Fugitives. These were plaster casts made of what the dead Pompeii people looked like trapped in the volcanic ash and lava.
Then we climbed up a hill and looked down on Pompeii. We found a bench and had our picnic of croissants and rolls in the shade. We descended the hill into Porta Nocera: Necropolis and walked amongst the tombs and burial points. We passed Porta Nocera which is the gate in the southeastern section of the city wall.
We were in the area so we also hit the amphitheater. It was pretty impressive though nature is slowly stealing it’s space back. We stumbled onto the House of the Venus in the Shell which was an amazing and well intact fresco of Venus. Wow.
Next-door was the House of Octavius Quartio. We headed for the Stabian Baths next but they were closed. This happened with several of the most famous spots and put a bit of a damper on our Pompeii visit.
Then we headed to the bakery. This was open.
There was a great deal of restoration and construction going on at Pompeii. Numerous roads were closed and this doubled our time getting to sights. So after circling the building, we finally found our way into the House of the Faun. But guess what? The path to the faun is blocked off. All I can get is a pic of his ass.
So we exit and circle the building but there are 4 barriers to the faun. You cannot get a picture of him from the front. Then an Italian tour guide tells us the entrance is on the side and we say we know but we want a picture of the faun. He insists we can get it inside. OL tries to explain it is blocked off and finally just says ok and we walk away from the guy.
The we tried to get to the House of the Vetii, but every road leading there is closed off. After half an hour, we give up. Then we went to the House of the Amorini Dorati and it was closed too.
In annoyance, we head to the Villa of Mysteries. We passed Porto Vesuvio Necropolis on the way to the villa. We walked outside the city walls and came back in through Porto Ercolano: Necropolis.
Finally, after a long walk, we arrived at The Villa of Mysteries. It’s pretty cool to wander around but it’s hard to tell what each room is without a guide or audio guide. But I took a ton of pics and figured I’d understand what they were later.
Then we headed back into the main part of Pompeii and saw House of the Tragic Poet. It was open, but the coolest part, the beware dog mosaic was blocked off. So we had to exit to house and slide our cameras through the bars for a pic.
Then we passed the Memorial Arches on our way to the House of the Small Fountain, which was locked up tight. We couldn’t really get a pic because the sun was behind it and the mosaic fountain was so far back. Grrr. There was another house with a fountain next door but it too was under lock and key and couldn’t be seen from the road well.
Then we passed another Memorial Arch on our way to exit the site because it was closing. We caught another glimpse of the forum and stumbled on the Apollo Temple. That was pretty cool. The we walked out with a Mr. Know-It-All who had to explain to everyone in a mile radius that Vesuvius could erupt at any time.
The bookshop closed 10 mins early so no souvenirs for me. Now the truly fun part. Getting back to Naples. The next train leaves in 20 minutes and it’s jam packed. We finally secure two seats. And then the Italian stallions sit with us. These are 4 guys trying to hit on Spanish girls. They try to get OL to translate but he claims to only speak English. They think he looks Spanish. I keep my head down and try to look ill.
Then we get back to Naples. Now our adventure truly begins. There are no subway ticket machines in the station. We looked high and low. Up and down escalators. Finally ask someone and find out you have to buy they at the tabachi store. We buy them then have to stamp them before going down to the train. Turns out we have lots of time because the train doesn’t arrive for 30 minutes during which we stand on aching feet.
The train is crammed full of people and getting off at the next stop is difficult. We manage to exit the train and walk through the subway station underground connection to Linea 1.
The trip out to Pompeii took about 1.5 hours. The trip back took over 2 hours. In between we walked our butts off.
For dinner we went back to our restaurant and I drank .75 liters of wine until my legs stopped aching. We had a nice meal and watched Jay Leno with Lady Gaga.
We awoke at 9 by nature. Before the alarm. Threw on some clothes and headed to breakfast buffet downstairs. The Hotel Piazza Bellini puts out a great spread. Chocolate and apple pastries, marmalade and sugared croissants, rolls, a marble pound cake, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, jams, packed cheese, cereal, cafe, yogurt.
We settled into a table and chowed down. Then we went back to the room to shower and get ready for a chill day in Naples. It was overcast, but we decided to hit Castel Sant’Elmo which has gorgeous 360 degree views of the city.
We walk to the nearby subway, Museo, to buy a day use card. Subways station is pretty clean inside, but the ticket machine doesn’t work. Hmm. So we go deeper into the station and find another machine beside a magazine vendor.
This one refuses to take money from us too. Suddenly, the magazine vendor pops out of the side of his stall and asks if we want to buy tickets for subway. He goes to hand us one ride tickets that he has but we want day passes.
So he goes back in his stall, get a suitcase and keys and opens up the ticket machine. He takes our money and inserts coins into the now opened machine and somehow prints us out two tickets. OL and I stand there surprised he is doing this for us.
We get our tickets and head to the subway stop by Castel Sant’Elmo. It’s 4 stops away at Vanvitelli metro stop.
Tiny problem. We got off the subway and couldn’t find the Castel because our map lacked street names. Stupid free map. So we buy a map of the city which is ginormous and screams tourist please rob me.
We can’t wait to see the city views. They are truly stunning. We saw the bay, the Castel d’Oro, Palazzo Reale, and a bunch of other sites.
Except the wind was blowing at 40-50mph and nearly toppled us over. I seriously felt like I might go over the side of the walkway. It also dropped 20 degrees when we got up there.
Headed back to the metro or thought we were…until we ended up right back by the Castel. I know because I recognized the cameo shop nearby. But we pulled out our trusty ginormous map and figured out how to get back to the subway. We weren’t feeling hungry but it was already 1ish.
Restaurants close from 3 to 7:30, making eating a must before 3. We don’t see any restaurants nearby so we hop on the subway figuring there are some by the museum.
We get off at the museum and see none. So we walk toward the museum. See a bar but nothing where we can sit and eat. Grrr. We turn down another street and see something on a side street, La Tarra dell’Arte, a ristorante, pizzeria and snack bar.
It’s cute and we end up each having a pizza. Neapolitan pizza is much thicker and chewier than the north pizzas and the Rome pizzas. I like it more. Reminds me of what I’ve had in the US. Mine is a four season pizza with mushrooms, ham, calamari and salame. Interesting. We got to walk through the kitchen and see the giant pizza oven on our way to our table.
Then we head to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. The museum is said to contain one of Europe’s most valuable archeological collections–Farnese acquisitions, mosaics and sculptures excavated from Pompeii and Herculaneum.
This is my favorite museum so far. The bottom floor is perfect for roaming around and all the statues are lit to their best advantage. Mostly Farnese stuff here. We jumped up to the top floor to see the Pompeii stuff next. Frescoes dominated the floor off the huge main ballroom.
There were also vases and metal works, and surgical instruments to the left.
This is a not to be missed exhibit.
Went to the second floor and saw mosaics that were made of the tiniest pieces. Wow. Pompeii had some truly gifted artists.
The funnest part?
The over 14 exhibit of sexually graphic art.
It was like seeing the porn collection of the ancients. Giant phalluses. Frescoes of sexual positions. Wind chimes made of metal to look like penises. These people were very comfortable with their sexuality.
While we were in the museum, the rain from up north found us. Luckily, there was a pause in the storm so we could get back to our hotel.
We lounge for a while waiting for dinner time to come. Read books on Pompeii. 7:30 can’t come fast enough. I’m hungry enough to gnaw on OL’s arm.
We go back to the cute restaurant near our hotel. The name escapes me. Because well I don’t speak or read Italian and when I try trouble follows. But I have the same linguine and then the fried cutlet. OL gets the sausage and fries which is hot dog and fries.
Fav moment at restaurant?
When the French couple try to order. The wife speaks a tad of Italian but her husband keeps interrupting with questions in French. Then he tries to speak Spanish to the waiter. The. The waiter tries to speak his version of French to them. Hilarious. Made me feel so much better about my language skills.
I try this Neapolitan dessert with ricotta cheese and orange rinds. Tasty, but I hate orange rinds in my food. The we return to hotel. Planning to see Pompeii tomorrow.
We woke up in Pisa to the ringing of bells. Then laid in bed a while. At 8:05, I realize OL is also awake and get up. We eat bread with cherry jam and I drink a coca cola light for my caffeine. We check out and head to Pisa Centrale train station by cab.
We arrive and I take a walk around while OL sits with bags. There is a purple lit room for waiting. Looks like something from my Twilo club kid days. Go back with OL for a while. Then we walk to elevator to our platform, but a swarm of people with bags, babies and strollers encases it.
OL asks me you want to use the bathroom? I decide it’s a nice diversion. As usual pay per use toilets. But this time, the water closet is blue lit. Like blue lights over the toilet. I get dizzy. And it is so bizarre. Anyway, when I tell OL, he thinks it’s UV light for killing germs. Great. I hate UV lights, they age the skin.
Get to train platform and aboard train. Sitting across from couple. Very weird. Girls is 20 something with mild acne and braces. Guy is gorgeous and he keeps leaning over to kiss her and make out the entire train ride. She doesn’t seem that into it.
We find every time I see a vista or the ocean and want to take a picture, we end up in a tunnel.
Three hours later, OL and I arrive in Rome termini station and switch trains. It’s been cloudy and raining since Pisa. Can the entire country have the same weather?
On the ride to Naples, we see patches of blue sky. A woman on the train uses a shopping bag to prevent her hair from touching the seat. Are trains that dirty? She also refused to hand the conductor her ticket and made him take it off her table.
We arrive in Naples and it’s sunny. We weave through the crowds to the taxi stand. 15 € to go 2 Km to the hotel. But it was worth it. Rush hour in Naples is in fucking sane. Worse than LA or NYC. Cars and Vespas make their own lanes merging and unmerging at will.
I’m in awe that anyone can drive here. Our cabbie takes a call and drives stick at the same time. Shit.
We turn up some tiny little alley like one way streets to arrive at the hotel. Pedestrians take their life in their hand walking these streets.
Finally we pull up in front of our hotel, a converted palazzo. We go through the huge wooden doors to the gated entrance. Then we get buzzed into a fabulously modern stylish hotel, the Hotel Piazza Bellini. We check in and take the lift to the 5th floor.
We open our door to an awesome luxury room. Two twin beds. 32 inch flatscreen tv. Huge bathroom. Giant patio with a rocking view of the city.
After an hour of relaxing, we venture downstairs to check email on the free wifi in the lobby. I take some pics of the uber cute hotel. Then we go to dinner a couple blocks from the hotel.
It’s a cute little place serving neapolitan cuisine. Best bread in Italy. Tasty sourdough. I order linguine with sausage and mushrooms. OL has a steak and fries. Then I have fried calamari and shrimp but the shrimp comes with head and legs attached. And when I get them off the entrails are still there. Ick. Had a nice white wine with dinner. Ended with Zuppa Anglese. Great dinner on my first night in Naples.
Being crafty and cheap, OL and I buy bread at the bakery the night before and figure we’ll eat breakfast in our room. 8€ for sweet breakfast sounds steep. Of course, the grocery store was not open at that time so we couldn’t get any jam.
But that morning, OL ran out and got us cherry jam and some fried sugar coated treats for me. Such a good boy.
After breakfast in our room, we go outside to rain. We have umbrellas. Good thing too because this rain started last night and showed no signs of leaving. We trudge to the center of town in a windy biting rain.
This doesn’t bode well for the day. We go to the Duomo Museum. It’s really cool. Different pieces of art on display. And you get the most awesome shots of the Leaning Tower from its courtyard. We saw pope couture, Etruscan art from BC era, wood inlay work, some paintings and statues from the Duomo.
A great place to seek refuge from the rain. Not crowded so we could wander around and take our time.
Then we headed out for lunch. The prices nearby seemed a bit much and we remembered walking through piazza Dante and seeing way better prices so we set out for there. But three problems: rain, cold, and sore thighs from climbing the baptistery.
We ended up missing the turn for the piazza and coming near to the Arno. Exhausted we grasped at the one straw in sight, a pizzeria. The prices seemed a bit high but we were too tired to walk on. We enjoyed our pizzas until the bill came. Or rather a hand written piece of paper with just a number:€24.50. for two pizzas and water?!
Obviously they are thieves, ripping us off. Remembering the prices from the menu and we can see how it gets to 18€, but 24.50? So OL asks her. Evidently she is charging 4€ for water and including a 2€ tip for herself. It’s pointless to argue, but this place should be avoided. It cafe bar Roma on Via Roma. Seriously run don’t walk away.
OL’s umbrella breaks and he nearly slices his hand open. We walk back to the center of town and buy a cheesy tourist umbrella that stinks but it’s really cute.
We hit a few souvenir shops along the way as we walk to the gate for a couple pics. Then freezing from the bone chilling rain, we head to the cemetery. The one that was nearly destroyed in a horrible bombing in 1944, where thousand year old frescoes melted away.
The cemetery is damp and cold too. But amazing to behold. Three of the frescoes were maintained in a room and we sit and admire them. There is a scene judgement Day and Hell where the people in Hell are literally in a sinner’s stew and naked women are being molested by snakes. And someone is being roasted on a spit.
The judgement part was so funny. Those being shoved into Hell are trying to escape and those not going to Hell are so serene. The other was the Triumph of Death. Also a stunning work. Personally, I think their looking old and missing pieces added to their value. I like to see old shit that looks old.
Freezing, we venture into Il Duomo to warm up. And catch another glimpse of the elusive Galileo’s lamp. Now that the guidebook cleared up what it looked like. Decide to forgo seeing the Leaning Tower lit up at night. Where the hell would we hang out for the next 3 hours in the rain?
We hit a few more souvenir shops. Wait for a taxi. And wait. And wait. Finally one arrives and we go to the hotel where we hole up for the rest of the evening until dinner when we buy more bakery bread and eat delicious Chinese food.
Have mixed feelings about Pisa. Loved our hotel and the nearby Chinese restaurant. Great deal on sites with the 5 for 10 euro card. But the food near the center was disappointing as was being ripped off. Also the long walk to the center in the rain really sucked.
Might go back to Tuscany but skip Pisa.
We revise our opinion on the people staying upstairs. They must be into feng shui and have to move the furniture each morning to adjust to the new energy in the room.
Once again, beat the alarm up and head down to the breakfast room. I get a sugared croissant and rolls with jam. Cappuccino. Then we pack up and head to the train station. Did I mention the back wheel on my suitcase broke in Venezia? So OL has taken over rolling/dragging that suitcase.
We get to Florence train station and easily find our train to Pisa. It’s a quick one hour ride. We taxi to our hotel which is uber cool. A former monastery that was converted into a hotel. Santa Croce in Fossabanda melds the old world with the new. The sacred with the secular. Our room had a private bathroom. Definite plus some don’t. It was a bit small because each room was a former monk’s room. Also they say kingsize bed, but it was a full.
But the central courtyard is lovely. The entire place is well preserved but still has modern touches.
The bell rings at 6:30ish and 7:30ish about 60 times for a minute straight. In the AM and the PM. There is a breakfast place but it wasn’t included with our room.
The tv was small but we weren’t there to watch tv. We checked in and ventured out to Pisa. It was a 30 minute walk to the Leaning Tower. We walked along the Arno River, very picturesque.
We bought a ticket to 5 sights for 10€ that was good for two days. Then we explored the baptistery. It was very lovely and from the center sounds echo gorgeously, which the staff demonstrated for us. We climbed to the second level which was like 60+ stairs and made my thighs burn and ache for days. But the view looking down on the center was worth it.
Went to Il Duomo which is far more lovely inside then outside. Worth a walk around. I couldn’t find Galileo’s lamp because I was stupidly looking for a genie lamp. OL was looking for a table lamp. Neither of us realized it was the chandelier hanging in the middle of the church.
Although the church closed at 5PM, the last entrance was at 4:30. A group of Japanese tourists missed the cutoff by like 30 seconds. That sucked. We also got tons of pics of the Leaning Tower. Every tourist wanted a pic pretending to hold it up.
Wandered around Pisa. Did a little shopping. Got harassed in a park by some guy trying to sell tissues. Like literally put them in my lap and refused to take them back. I got up and walked away. I really hate pushy street hawkers.
Then we went back to the hotel. At night we went to a Chinese restaurant, Ni Hao, nearby. The best Chinese food I’ve had since leaving New York. The sautéed eggplant tasted just like what I used to eat in Beijing. I had dumplings that were thicker than Beijing style but tasted awesome.
I ordered steamed bread and it was like being back in China.The sweet and sour chicken was fresh and had a home made sauce. OL devoured his pork and hot sauce. The rice was sticky enough and clearly came from a rice cooker. yum. For dessert, I had caramelized fruit and fried ice cream. Delish squared.
We are once again awoken by the buffalos stomping around their room and redecorating. We arrive early to breakfast and I get my chocolate croissant. Happy day. I also get a cappuccino.
Today is Monday which means the shops may be open at some point. But we head to Santa Croce to see the church. The entrance seems to be charging although the guidebook said the church was free. Walk in and out of the entrance 4-5 time debating whether we want to do this if it’s not free, the beggar in front must think we are screwing with her. Finally decide 5€ is acceptable expense and go in.
The church had some gorgeous artwork. Amazing frescoes. Breathtaking. We loved it.
It also contained Michelangelo’s and Galileo’s sarcophagi. Very unique and memorable place.
Then we walked over to Ponte Vecchio for a necklace and gloves. The necklace shop I loved was closed, but we found something comparable. Then went to the glove place, Madova where Frommer’s said I could buy the best gloves. They had a discount basket but the ones in my size were very ugly because they were more for men than women. Evidently I have ginormous hands. So I ended up buying the full price ones.
And OMG, they fit so well and they looked so good. I’m not a shoe girl but I am now a total glove girl.
Walked to Boboli Gardens to get views of city. Found a cool Il Duomo mini statue on the way at a little shop and bought it. Then we headed up hill and up hill. We sat down beside a big statue and ate a picnic lunch out of OL’s backpack from the bakery near our hotel–pizza and fried dough balls. Yum.
I see what looks like a raccoon run across the park, but is got big swaths of brown fur and then little black stripes. I ask OL what that is. He tells me a tiger. I burst out laughing and say no smaller. Totally straight faced, OL says, “a baby tiger.”
Then we hike onward to Belvedere fortress, which has killer views of the whole city. But it is now closed for renovations because some Italian dogs and a kid fell off it and died. Why in God’s name would you bring your dog to a 1000 year old fortress and let it run around?
We spring for a cab to piazzale Michelangelo and find jaw dropping views of the city. Vistas and panoramas.
And a high school kid has his girlfriend close her eyes and walks her to the view for Valentine’s Day. Then they sit and chow down on Big Macs.
We enjoy the view and walk back to the hotel to dine at our favorite restaurant.
Woke up early because the hippos in the room above us are dancing and moving their furniture around. Breakfast ends at 9:30 so we head down 3 flights of stairs to breakfast room. Typical sweet breakfast fare though I think I’ll die if I eat another marmalade croissant so I stick to cream or chocolate croissants. Discover I love cherry jam on bread.
Due to Itally’s unique scheduling, stores are supposed to be closed on Sunday but they are open if they sell leather. Also museums are all closed on Monday and that is our only other full day in city. So by process of elimination, Sunday becomes museum day.
We walked into town and popped into a few leather shops along the way. Then we went to Uffizi museum because guidebook said it was one of the best museums in the world. Huge line but we buy timed tickets and walk around for an hour.
Head to Ponte Vecchio bridge. Check out the jewelry shops. They look like little boxes. Very pretty filigree designed necklaces. We check to see if Madova glove shop is open but it’s closed. Sign says open Monday so it will be open Monday…at some point.
Wander back to Uffizi and explored piazza della Signoria. The Loggia della Signoria housed some cool statues in the square including Perseus killing Medusa. Also stopped in at cafe Rivoire for beignets to take edge off snackiness before the Uffizi.
We walk into Uffizi or rather go through security then enter. If you need to use the restrooms, the signs are deceiving. It’s a good 7 minute walk from the main entrance to the basement bathrooms.clean but a trek. And whatever you do,do not take the stairs up to the exhibit because it starts on the 2nd floor which is 4 stories up.
The quick and dirty: art overload. Too many paintings in one room and on each wall. You’re quickly desensitized to the beauty and majesty around you. The crowds also take away from the overall museum experience. 95% of the art is on the second floor across 40+ rooms.
I felt like I was being punished with art. Sure they’ve got some amazing stuff, too bad they don’t showcase it properly. A museum should not feel likely grandma’s basement.
The lower floor had 90% empty because a new exhibit opens in June. But the museum still routes you through bare burgundy walls.
After 2 hours, I was craving a souvenir stall. Luckily, the exit led us to a little restaurant for lunch. I had bruscetta and raviolis. For dessert, I had a tiramisu.
Then we trudged to the Galleria dell’Accademia, expecting another rough ride. Instead,we were pleasantly surprised. We arrived around 4ish and I got in for free. Cool. The museum had a lot less than the Uffizi but they showcased their stuff so much better. I really got to see it.
And then we found David. WOW. I mean mesmerizing. Gorgeous. Amazing. Definitely have to see it when in Florence kinda thing.
Then we head back to hotel, stopping at Il Duomo for cherry vanilla gelato. Then we head to hotel to rest a spell before returning to our favorite place for dinner, Le Stagioni. I had the spaghetti alla carbonara. Eggs and bacon and cheese are ridiculously good on pasta.
truly, madly is the first book in Heather Webber’s quirky new series about Lucy Valentine, who cannot see auras like the rest of her matchmaking family but can find lost objects.
This talent makes her the “black sheep” of her family….at least in her own mind. But when her father needs someone to step in and run the family business, Lucy discovers just how useful her talent is.
Full of quirky, robust characters and a plot that didn’t reveal itself until the last 10 pages, this is a great read for mystery fans that like a paranormal element and a dash of romance too.
Honestly, I don’t know how to categorize this book and neither did the publishers. The labeled it a novel. Personally, I see it as a mystery with romantic elements and a dash of the paranormal. Something for everyone.
The writing sucks you in from page 1 with this opening line: There comes a time in every girl’s life when she realizes her father isn’t perfect.
Aren’t you dying to hear more?
I was. I finished the novel on my flight to Italy. I have the kindle for book 2 to read in Italy. So excited. The third book is due out soon too.
So the blog post I just spent an hour drafting disappeared on my worthless craptastic wordpress app on Ipad. I am now drafting in Pages.
So here’s the quick and dirty.
At the train station in Vicenza, an Italian lady showed us how to deal with a child before it becomes a problem. If it starts to make a noise, slap each hand, then the face and finally give it a shove and yank it back. Wow. Intense discipline. And this was before the kid started really acting up. Guess her mom believes in preventative measures.
Italian trains are very modern and clean. Think Acela.
Left Vicenza and headed to Florence. Had to make a transfer at Padua. We road all the way to Bologna with dirty windows that ruined scenery shots. After Bologna, we went through constant tunnels and OL asked is this where the mole people live.
Four seaters are rough when old Italian people sit on the outside and refuse to wait for you to put your bags up before claiming their seats.
Bathrooms are hard to find at Florence train station. Taxi drivers don’t make sure all riders are in car before driving away.
Hotel Orcagna is a 15 minute taxi ride from train station. Located on a quiet street. Easy check in. Teeny tiny elevator for bringing bags up and down. We got third floor, room 35. I took the stairs.
Internet is spotty at times.
We had a nice balcony overlooking street. The bathroom was small. Tight fit–shower is a bit too close for comfort when you’re on the toilet.
Room tended to run warm.
Receptionist gave us map of city and told us 20 minute walk to center. She showed us the key sights and how to get to them. We asked about food, but at this time of day nothing open besides local bakery.
We headed out at 4 pm to the bakery. Had a nice cold pizza. Standing up. Then walked to Il Duomo. Because it was Saturday, all the shops were open. Browsed a bit. Picked up a few souvenirs.
Trying to find the entrance to Il Duomo while the Hare Krishnas danced between Il Duomo and the Baptistery with tourists joining in.
The exterior of Il Duomo was way more impressive than the interior because they took most of the stuff out and put it in a separate museum. But the outside is an intricate pattern of green, pink, and white marble. It became my fav Florence landmark and appeared in many pictures.
The doors of the Baptistery are gorgeous and referred to ask the gates of paradise. I can see why. They glowed.
We wandered the piazza picking up a couple cheap pictures and a Florence picture book. Then we browsed in shops. And headed back to the hotel.
At 7:45 we headed out to dinner at Le Stagioni. I had tortellini with cheese sauce and hotdogs and fries. OL had a pizza. For dessert, I had the cheesecake. this restaurant proved super convenient and the food was tasty and the prices reasonable.
We awoke to a sumptuous breakfast at the Hotel Continental that included the typical continental carb breakfast fare plus eggs, bacon, meats and cheese. There was a fruit table too. Don’t drink the caffe remind me of sludge. Order a cappuccino from the waitress.
We went to Santa Corona first because Frommer’s recommended it, but it was closed for restoration. Decided to hit the other main attractions in the book.
At the Olympic Theater, we found out that our 8 euro ticket entitled us to visit all 6 museums in town. I love Vicenza!
The Olympic Theater is absolutely breathtaking. The stage looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before, even after countless Broadway shows. Seriously amazing. Though I think he ran out of money when it came to the seating. It’s wooden steps. They had a good giftshop.
Then we went to the Civic Museum across the street, which is housed in a former palazzo. The museum is small, but they do a great job displaying their pieces. We were greeted by a wonderful tour guide who took us through the highlights of the museum, giving us interesting tidbits and quick explanations of why the work was important.
He made the art come alive for us and made this one of the most memorable and enjoyable museums in Italy.
Then we went in search of food. Ended up wandering to the Basilica Pallidiana, but it was still closed for restoration, which Frommer’s noted but we thought maybe it was done. Nope.
So we checked out a restaurant our hotel recommended but the prices were all covered up. Damn it. We went back to Vesuvio Pizzeria and had calzones.
Feeling tired, we decided to hit one more museum. Gallerie di Palazzo Leoni Montanari. The palazzo was stunning. So much detail. OL thought the chandeliers we’re a bit gaudy. But I liked the decadentness. Gorgeously tiled ceilings. Paintings. Then we went upstairs and saw Russian icons from Russian Orthodox churches (religious art).
They had a nice giftshop too.
Then we went to the hotel for a rest. OL napped. I was unable to and repacked my suitcase.
Although the Palladio villas were both closed, one is a UNESCO heritage sight, so we wanted to check them out. But they are off in the hills outside town. We decided to go before dinner. Bad idea. It was dark. We didn’t know where we were going. And we walked it.
Found the Villa Valmarana or rather the unlit stairs/path leading to it. Started on it and turned back. Impossible to do in the dark. We kept going and found Villa Rotunda. But couldn’t get a good shot through the gate because it was so far back and not well lit.
But we tried.
We walked into town to find dinner. We went to three places suggested by hotel but they were a bit pricey. Finally ended up at Malvasia where the prices are hidden. We saw a couple items for 10€ and decided to give it a go. Best decision all day.
Food turned out to be the best eats we had in Italy. Ambience was perfect. Crackling fire. Quiet restaurant. I took pictures of the bread rolls because they were so good. I had the Venetian pasta with duck sauce. Omg, delish. And the codfish wrapped in cabbage on a bed of pumpkin puree. OL had the pork chop and roasted potatoes. I had a glass of white wine that was delicious and only cost 2.1€
For dessert, I ordered the cheesecake. And it was a ricotta cheesecake. Nothing like what I’ve had before. I swore I’d died and gone to Palladio heaven.
We walked back to the hotel and hit the hay.