Italy

A Note on Thursday Travels…

These travel posts were originally posted on my old, now-defunct blog that I wrote with my sister Vicky. The majority of them recount our adventures in Europe in May-June 2011 (in all our terrible hair extensions and Ugg-booted glory), but I thought I’d transfer them over anyway. More than anything, we wrote them to keep our memories alive and share our scattered observations — they are by no means meant to be comprehensive travel guides or anything. Just thought I’d clarify that 🙂

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Thursday Travels: Venice

We return to Italy this week’s Travels; specifically to Venice, that legendary city of canals, masks, and gondolas (or gondole, as the Italian plural form is, if we’re being technical). I’d been there once before on a rainy day several years ago, and had been somewhat disappointed with the place, finding it rather creepy and claustrophobic. Things this time round were immediately improved by the weather; we enjoyed beautiful sunshine which naturally put everything in a better light – the plenitude of water in Venice which had seemed murky and sinister in the rain was now shimmering and benign. All in all, most ideal for a leisurely gondola ride down the canals — the perfect way to start our day of sightseeing in Venice.

{Say formaaaaggioooo!}

I don’t seem to remember our gondolier being particularly lively (some serenade you but I think ours was pretty charmless). However, the sights we passed were entertainment enough…

{…like these stunningly shabby old buildings…}

{…and this gondola full of very cheerful fellow tourists}

The disembarkment area happened to be right smack dab in front of a Hard Rock Cafe, and as we were already pretty pasta and pizza-ed out (although there is no such thing as being gelato-ed out, there just isn’t), we decided that good American-style burgers and fries was exactly what we were craving. After this refuelling, we were ready to tackle the abundance of culture Venice has to offer…

{Venetian vista}

{Tucked away canal}

{San Zaccaria church — not wildly significant or anything but made for a beautiful backdrop}

{Everywhere you go in Venice you have these creepy masks staring at you — total Stuff of Nightmares, right?!}

{Venice is also renowned for its lace so we paid a trip to a Lace School (yep, that’s a thing!)}

Some of my favourite memories of Venice are not the countless museums and churches and other sites of cultural significance we visited, but the random little diversions we had throughout the day, such as getting lost…

{…and turning into a little street only to be greeted by this gruesome sight}

And then searching endlessly for a public washroom and finally winding up in a little Chinese-run cafe serving Italian food, where there were no customers, just the family all sitting around chatting.  And Rihanna was blasting on the radio. It was one of those surreal moments, where we just thought to ourselves “How weird is it to be in Venice listening to Rihanna?!” I mean, in theory, it’s not that weird at all, but when you’ve been surrounded by so much decaying grandeur and tales of prisoners being locked away never to see the light of day again, it was just kind of jarring. In the best possible way of course; we do like Rihanna’s music. As did the super polite little Chinese boys who silently showed us where the washroom was whilst bobbing their heads to “Disturbia.”

 And then, after a bit more wandering, we decided it was dinner-time…

{…and this happened…}

{…and this newly-bought, bird-in-a-cage necklace (named Donna) made her debut…}

{…and Rebecca Saw The Light…}

And, as dusk fell, bathing the city in that golden light so typically Italian, we bade a fond farewell to Venice…

{Ciao, Venezia!}

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Thursday Travels: Florence

Today we’re recapping the brief time we spent in Florence. As we’ve mentioned in our previous Travels posts, this is by no means an exhaustive guide to what to do here…more than anything, it’s just a way for us to keep the memories alive! For some reason, Florence was one of those cities where we didn’t take a whole lot of photos (I’d like to think it was because we were too awestruck by the spectacular sights to bother reaching for the camera, but it could very well have been that we got sidetracked by gelato). As we were only there for a day, we didn’t get to cover nearly enough ground–you could easily spend months in the city and never run out of things to see and do…and eat, might I add!

Did we like Florence? Yes, definitely — who wouldn’t?! It’s got incredibly beautiful buildings and some of the finest museums in the world, and it’s clean and not terribly crowded (by European standards). And it also happens to be the capital of Tuscany, one of the most beautiful regions in Italy. But did we love it? A lot of people actually prefer Florence to Rome for all the reasons mentioned above, but to be honest, we didn’t love love love it. Rome may be chaotic and dirty and super touristy, but it has an energy to it that Florence just kind of lacks. 

Florence is beautiful, though, and we enjoyed our short time there. We’d both been there before a few years back and had seen some of the major sights, so didn’t feel the need to see them again this time. We started the day with a guided tour around the city, and then did some exploring on our own. We saw the Basilica di Santa Croce–not the “big” one (that would be the Duomo), but a beautiful church nonetheless, set on a pretty piazza. We strolled the charming Ponte Vecchio bridge with its centuries-old shops, and meandered our way through the streets, stopping for gelato breaks here and there. All in all, a peaceful, pleasant day. 

{The River Arno, with the Ponte Vecchio in the distance}

{And again}

{And one last one for good measure!}

{In case you can’t read it, that little sign says “Do Not Touch. Just For Beauty.” The fact that the shop was run by a little old man made it all the more cute}

{Shops of the Ponte Vecchio}

{And more shops. Back in the day, they were largely butchers’ shops and the like, but were thankfully replaced by goldsmiths and jewellers in the 15th century}

{Santa Croce courtyard}

{One last gelato shot}

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Thursday Travels: Pisa & Verona

This week’s Travels takes us back to Italy — a sunkissed country crammed with culture and charm. Definitely one of our favourites 😉 In between visiting Rome, Florence and Venice (each of which will have their own post in the weeks to come), we made brief stops in Pisa and Verona…too brief to have their own post, so we’ve combined them. Unfortunately, we didn’t take a ton of pictures at either of these stops (we got distracted by gelato in Pisa and clothes-shopping in Verona) but you don’t really need hundreds of pics of the Leaning Tower or Juliet’s Balcony, do you?!

Now for a little history lesson: Construction on the Leaning Tower first began in 1173, and continued intermittently for hundreds of years after that. The tilting is caused by the unstable foundation on which it’s built (the ground was/is too soft), and gradually increased each year until the tower was stabilised about a decade ago. You can actually go in (and up) it, but we didn’t…it was the hottest day we’d yet experienced on our trip and we were dying for gelato…so we reserved our flagging energy for the pursuit of acquiring some. (The main difference between gelato and ice cream? Gelato uses milk where ice cream uses cream! And is somehow all the more yummier for that, in our opinion).

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{First glimpse!}

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{We tried to take a pic of us leaning against/pushing the Tower but after several failed attempts opted for a more basic pose}

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{On the prowl for gelato}

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{The Upright Tower of Pisa}

Now for Verona… It’s a mid-sized city in Northern Italy with an amphitheatre, warm-coloured buildings and sun-dappled streets, and the Casa di Giulietta — Juliet’s House. As in Juliet Capulet, heroine of Shakespeare’s great tragedy (and Taylor Swift’s alter ego).

While there actually was a Capulet family living in Verona, the similarities to the family of the play are a bit hazy, so the claim that this is the Capulet family home (and that the balcony was indeed Juliet’s) is a bit sketch…but nonetheless it’s become a love shrine of sorts, complete with letters to Juliet from people around the world posted on the walls.

It was a bit nauseating, what with the overwhelming amount of PDAs going on ever way you looked, so we made a hasty dash for the shops… We found a really good one called ProMod — a cheap and cheerful clothing store indigenous to Europe; definitely recommended!

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{Verona! Juliet’s Balcony}

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{Casa di Giulietta}

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{Piazza delle Erbe}

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{The city is full of beautiful, balconied buildings like these}

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Thursday Travels: Rome

This week’s post is on Rome, which we unanimously loved. (Vicky loves it more than Paris, but Ali’s on the fence — they both have such charm.) What Rome has going for it is a better climate; although the sky looks a bit overcast in our pictures, the two days we were there were beautifully warm. This was really appreciated in the evenings, which were balmy enough to make strolling around and eating outside after sunset so enjoyable. And the sunset on our first night was gorgeous! Again, our pictures don’t do it justice, but the city was bathed in this rich golden light that illuminated the ruins as the day came to a close. Così bella!

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{Sunset ruins}

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{More ruins!}

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{The Pantheon — ancient Roman temple to the gods}

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{Alternate view, featuring Becky!}

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{Spanish Steps}

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{Sun-dappled Colosseum}

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{Roman post office – so confusing & time-wasting! All we wanted to do was send a postcard, but to do so we had to take a ticket and wait…and wait….}

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{There was nothing for it but to take pictures and pretend we were having a grand old time}

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{All that waiting earned us a much-needed lunch break}

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{And then it was time to officially leave Italy for a bit and hit up Vatican City!}

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{Ciao, Roma!}

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