A Travellerspoint blog


Rome, Italy and Vatican City on a Budget

sunny 22 °C

18 November.
Rome, the eternal city, built on seven hills, located on the Tiber River, the capital of Italy is home to almost three million people and has been in existance since 730 BC.
We are going on the free walking tour which in my mind is at the Spanish Steps at eleven am. We walk four blocks from our hostel to the central train station and buy metro tickets, they are one euro fifty each and good for over an hour. The train is packed. We get off at Spanya station, find the Spanish steps and wait around. Really busy, all kinds of people taking pictures and we take pictures too. Today is Sunday.
The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps

It is not cold but you need a light jacket and it is overcast so the pictures will look dreary. A band comes marching into the square, looks like the Salvation Army, it is all quite jolly. Rome is a hilly city, thus the need for the steps to get to the church at the top.
The Spanish Steps should have been called the French Steps as the church at the top is a French church and France paid for the steps. But the Spanish Embassy must be here and also Keats used to live right next door and now there is a Keats and Shelley museum just to the right as you face the Spanish Steps. There is also a fountain with a statue of a ship at the bottom of the steps and a nice picture taking opportunity. There are all kinds of underground springs feeding the fountains and the water is suppose to be good but I am not taking any chances and stick with bottled water.
band playing by Spanish Steps

band playing by Spanish Steps

At ten past eleven I dig out our notebook and discover the tour started at ten but there is another one at four. OK. All is not lost. We climb to the top of the Spanish steps (156 but who is counting?) and take some pictures, then walk around. The first coffee shop we come to is a definite stop and we enjoy a cappuccino, I like a good coffee to start my day. Expensive, though, when you sit outside, cheaper if you have it inside, likely standing which is not my favourite thing as I like to sit down and rest when I get the chance. I am sixty three and being a backpacking budget tourist is really exhausting.
So we look at the map and decide we will see the Trevi Fountain and all the sights along the way. We walk down the street where all the expensive stores are, Gucci, Prada, etc and I take a few pictures of things I will never wear, or own and really who cares. We get to the Tiber River and snap a few shots, and when we are close to Trevi fountain, stop for a quick lunch of pizza and sandwich and water, shared.
The Trevi Fountain is really spectacular, crowded with people, but there are seats along the wall and we score a spot and sit awhile enjoying the view and the idea, here we are at the sight where so many people have been, movies have been shot here, people have cavorted in the fountain and we throw in coins and take pictures like everybody else.
Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Now we walk to the Borghese Park which is a city park next to the Borghese Mansion. We take a circuitous route and by the end of the day we for sure will have walked ten k if not ten miles. There are some tremendous views of the city and lots of people are walking, we make our way back to the Spanish Steps, walk down 156 steps, and wait for the four oclock tour which we never did find. Oh well, I really do not know if I was up to a two hour walking tour that would have ended at six pm and we would have staggered home in the dark. As it is I am complaining at the metro when we take the wrong door out, I do not want to walk one extra step. We stop at the grocery store and buy instant cappucinno for the morning and also little dixie cups of gelato. Yummy. Back in the room, eating my gelato, savouring it, I feel rejuvinated. Tomorrow is another day, maybe I will sleep well tonight and tomorrow we will go to the Colosseum. I think we did quite well today, saw some sights, got a good handle on how the subway system works, walked in a city park with Roman families pushing prams and leading dogs on leashes, no rain, a fine day.
November 19 2012
We flew out of Calgary two months ago, Sept 19.
We have been to Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and now we are in Italy.

A note about Calgary, Europeans know it first for the Flames, second for the Olympics and third for the Stampede which they seem to think is barbaric.

Have you been to the Colosseum?? Built to seat 75,000 spectators, up to 65,000 people would be given free passes to watch gladiators duke it out. During the half time show they killed Christians. It would have been quite a spectacle, there are elevators built in to bring the animals, maybe lions, onto the stage from underground cages.
The Colosseum

The Colosseum

The admission to the colosseum includes the Forum and Palentine Hill and costs 12.50 euros but we bought a Rome pass which includes free admission to two museums and unlimited rides on the metro for three days. Costs thirty euro and saves a lot of time if you are taking the train. Also you bypass the line up at the Colosseum.

We spent at least four hours walking around these sights, maybe a total of one hour sitting. Then we went to the museum near by, more recent history, wars of independence, emigration, first world war, etc and numerous stairs of the Vittoriano which are worth it for the views of Rome from the terraces. This is a stunning building, very white with many statues outside, really dominates the landscape and is not well liked by residents apparently but us tourists just love it.

Rome was not on my bucket list but it should have been. Tick. I don't have a bucket list but going to Turkey was a vague kind of goal. Tick. Tuscany was not even on my radar until I noticed Siena was close to Rome. Then as it turned out our cheapest flight from Izmir to Italy brought us to Bologna, therefore to Florence and into Tuscany.
From Palentine Hill

From Palentine Hill

It has rained during the night and a bit of gentle rain in the late afternoon today, but still quite warm, the roses are blooming on Palentine Hill and the oranges are hanging on the trees, they are in season here too. Not exactly shirtsleeve weather but a light fleece jacket is enough and you can still sit outside and enjoy a coffee or a wine at an outdoor cafe. Actually it feels a bit like spring, but the leaves are starting to turn. I have seen more maple leaves in Europe than I ever see at home in western Canada. Here they cover the sidewalks on some streets, all golden colour. In Finland they were shades of red, maybe because it is colder there. However, the trees that signify Rome to us are the striking umbrella pines.
Umbrella Pines in Rome

Free Walking Tour - Bernini's Fountain, Vatican City

Most major European cities have a free, donation accepted, walking tour. We find them informative, a good orientation, an interesting introduction.
The walking tour usually lasts about two hours and the distance covered could be four kilometres, you start out at one point and finish somewhere else. On the Rome walking tour the starting point is near the Spanish steps and on the Vatican walking tour the finishing point is St Peter's Square.

OK this is Tuesday and we finally got on the free walking tour. First it turns out that it does not operate on Sunday so we wasted a fair amount of time on Sunday hanging around the Spanish steps looking for the tour.
Then we were all set to take it Monday but for the first time on this trip I slept in and we did not get going til after ten. So we missed it. We did think we might hook up with the four pm tour but after all those hours at the Colosseum, etc we just could not take a walking tour plus we would have had to rush to finish up at the Forum.
So today we made it to the Spanish Steps and could not see any tour. Wow. This was bad. Then it turned out the tour starts by the Spanish Embassy which is just down the block and thank goodness we managed to participate.
After a brief stop at the Spanish steps we walked down the Fifth Avenue of Rome and looked at Prada through the windows. Then we stopped at Piazza Navona the baroque square with Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers which is every bit as impressive as the Trevi Fountain. We saw the Parliament Buildings also and the Shell Fountain.
The highlight of the walk was the Pantheon. Raphael is buried here. Also a bunch of kings. The cement dome is forty three meters wide and forty three meters tall, it has no windows as windows would jeopardize the integrity of the structure. Instead there is an opening of nine meteres round in the roof of the dome. This is the only source of light. When it rains it rains into the Pantheon but holes strategically placed in the floor carry the water away. The Pantheon is so well preserved even if the bronze from the columns out front was removed and recycled at St Peters Basilica and the white marble that covered the building inside and out has been removed. The Pantheon started out as a temple to some other gods but became a Christian church, therefore as in all of Rome, as a church, there is no admission.
inside the pantheon

inside the pantheon

well preserved in Rome

well preserved in Rome

We walked over the Tiber on the Angels Bridge, designed by Bernini. Two of the angels were done by Bernini, the rest by his school.

Angel's Bridge Rome

Angel's Bridge Rome

On the other side of the Bridge is Castel Sant Angela where the pope used to live. There is an old penitentiary in the basement. It is now a museum, the Pope having moved to the Vatican about 1929 when the Vatican became a separate state. We will tour the Castel Sant Angela museum tomorrow as our second use of the Rome Card which gives you two free entrances in Rome, but not in Vatican City.
Our guide brought us to St Peters Square and explained how the Pope did his Sunday greeting from the second window on the right and if the window was open you knew the Pope was in residence. In the summer he goes to his summer place.
We tipped the guide, had our apple juice and a snack sitting on a bench in St Peters square and then went to find the Vatican Museum which turned out to be quite a hike.
Vatican Museum - The line-up was non existent, it was now about half past noon so we went through the security entrance and bought our tickets: fifteen euro each. We went to see Raphaels work including his masterpiece the School of Athens.
The School of Athens

The School of Athens

The colours are so vivid in Raphael's paintings it is like the figures are three dimensional and the book, for example, is coming out of the wall. There are corridors of sculptures and I took some pictures of feet to prove my point from Florence that the feet and everything else are really detailed even though they are carved from marble. There are maps, antiquities, tapestries, paintings, sculptures, it is huge. We did not look at everything and pretty much skipped over the modern stuff.

Then we headed into the Sistine Chapel and were amazed by the Michelangelo paintings on the ceiling and walls, other artists are represented here as well.
We did manage to get out the right hand door as suggested by Rick Steves and all kinds of other travel posts. We could not find a tour group to hook up with but just headed out when nobody was looking and this exit put us very close to St Peters Basilica where St Peter is suppose to be buried. We have already seen the burial spot of Saint John in Selcuk (Turkey) and really that was pretty much a thrill.
St Peter's Basilica, being a church, is free. Here, behind glass and quite a distance from the admirers, is Michelangelo's marble Pieta. Mary holding her adult son Jesus, lifeless in her arms, it is very moving, the color is a wonderful warm ivory, very beautiful. Words cannot describe it really, you have to see it.
Michelangelo's Pieta

Michelangelo's Pieta

Also Michelangelo designed the dome and the church is marble, gold, bronze, paintings everywhere, sculptures, and you can take pictures here as well. The only place you cannot take a picture is in the Sistine Chapel, the Japanese have the rights to the pictures, go figure.

Now we went to the Peoples Square, Piazza del Popolo, and enjoyed the wonderful fountains and the ambiance, sitting on a marble bench with a light misty rain. The Egyptian obelisk is pink and is about four thousand years old. Then we went to the Republic metro stop to find St Suzannas church so I could pick up the passes for our audience with the pope tomorrow. A donation is requested so I did leave them about ten US dollars, it is an American RC church, they fly the flag and everything. Then home. We did stop once on our way for a cappucino and a light snack but this day was very intense with walking, we can hardly navigate anymore, we are really worn out, about six hours of steady walking today. At least tomorrow we can sit during the pope's service and I am really looking forward to that. It is not every day that we get to see a king, a head of state and have a guaranteed seat. I wouldn't be able to get that close to Harper. They suggest you go two and a half hours early to get a good spot but that is not going to happen.
The Vatican is a rich little state, the world's smallest country, less than nine hundred people. Imagine. Right in the middle of Rome.

Audience with the Pope - Ok we were in the audience

Wed Nov 21
We walked into St Peter's Square at 930 am. Tickets for our free admission in hand, we were directed to the end of a three block line. The audience is inside today. It is gorgeous weather, warm and sunny. I do not need my jackets. Plural. I am wearing my raincoat and fleece.
The line moved quite fast, we were behind a Spanish bride and groom. She had a satin dress and wore a mantilla.
The current Pope's name is Benedict XVI and I had to look that up, it is not just off the tip of my fingers. He was born in Germany near the Austrian border in 1927, so not a spring chicken. He will be 85 in April 2013. Imagine, at that age, to be the in charge of over one billion Catholics worldwide.
By 10 am we were sitting in the chapel/auditorium quite close to the front. There were maybe 100 people in front of us and 6000 beside and behind us. Just the way people got streamed in from security, we were lucky. I really did pinch myself, I was so in awe of being there. I cannot imagine how the Catholics felt.
At about 1030 the orchestra played a tune, then two Swiss guards came onto the stage and stood on either side of the throne. Dressed in gold and purple, the Swiss guards have been guarding the Vatican for over 600 years. There were already about two dozen cardinals sitting on the right hand side of the stage.
Then, in a wave, everybody in the audience/congregation, stood up, like you do at a wedding, and the crowd erupted. Jeff leaned over to me and said, 'The pope is like a rock star' and I was clapping along with everybody else when the small old man with white robes and a crown of thick white hair came out on the stage. He said a few words and raised his arms, he was speaking Italian so ....Then we all sat down and people were snapping pictures to beat the band.
A cardinal read a passage from the letter by Paul to the Corinthians. I know this as it was read in several languages including English. Then the pope, who remained sitting in a big chair with two cardinals in smaller chairs on either side of him and the two Swiss guards standing on either side of the cardinals, then the pope, as I was saying, gave a sermon. It was in italian (or maybe Latin) but I could understand the gyst of it, God, Jesus and Paul, antagonistic, the service revolved around the Bible passage.
Then one after the other, cardinals spoke. In English, the pope would bless members of our families who were sick, then the pope spoke in heavily accented English, well he read something and there was polite applause. He mentioned England, the states and Sri Lanka. I had a hard time understanding him but he was basically bringing greetings, welcoming the 'English as a first language' attendees. Then the same thing was repeated in German, polite applause. When the pope spoke in Spanish there were boisterous cheers and again when he addressed the Portugese speakers, loud cheering and waving of flags. The Italians waved white handkerchiefs.
But it was the Polish segment of the audience who stole the show. A group with red head scarves stood up while the pope was speaking Polish and started singing, the Poles scattered around the huge auditorium were clapping along to the tune. It was quite a long song and when it was finished the pope resumed talking and right away another group started singing, interrupting him for the second time.
When we went on the walking tours of Warsaw and Krakow, it was so evident that Poland is a Catholic country and they were so proud of the Polish pope, John Paul ll.

There were a few more languages covered, but it was pretty subdued. Then the pope stood up and gave the Apostolic blessing, which also would cover our relatives and loved ones who are sick or in agony. and when he was finished the cardinals lined up and kissed his ring.
Our audience was over.

The man on my right had wiped away a tear during the Polish singing so before we left I touched his arm (his back was towards me) and when he turned I asked ' are you Polish?' and of course he was, I said 'Canada' and shook his hand and he hugged me and kissed my cheek and for me this was a moment.
I don't care if you are Catholic, Protestant or agnostic, today's papal audience was powerful, and we both are glad we came.

Jeff and I left the chapel and proceded to Sant Angela's Museum. Which has a lot of stairs and some great views of Rome. Hadrian is buried here. Then it was a long walk to Piazza Fiori, yummy lasagna for lunch, nice square where they used to execute people, now it is a produce market, Campo di Fiori, narrow winding streets, artisan's shops, Sergios was closed (Ali from the Tulip Art Shop in Turkey had recommended this restaurant, likely opens for supper at 730), and we got home at five.
We are staying at Christina's Residence, about four or five blocks from the main train terminal, cost is 34 Euros per night and includes breakfast which is set up in your room, you make your own instant coffee with the electric kettle provided and there is a fridge.
Tomorrow we fly Ryanair to Madrid. Caio.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 18:41 Archived in Italy Tagged churches art museums history budget backpacking seniors budget_hotels Comments (0)

Bologna, Florence, San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy

San Gimignano, Jewel of the Tuscany hills

sunny 19 °C

We were up early November 13, left Selcuk, Turkey by private car, as planned at 530 and arrived at Izmir airport at 630 am.
Flew Pegasus Air, changed planes in Istanbul and arrived at BLQ in Bologna Italy about 230 pm, the time changed, we gained an hour. Our flight cost something like one hundred and twenty two dollars Canadian each from Izmir Turkey to Bologna.

Bologna, Italy

We took a bus to the central station in Bologna, about six E. each and then took a cab to our hotel for eight E. Our room is clean and quaint, it has a great balcony, lots of nice white towels, we like it here. We bought a coffee in the pretty lobby, great, strong, fairly good size, we love Italy.
We took a walk, picked up some Euros, got some bread, salami and olive paste, I got three tetra packs of wine (like little juice packs, I am not a wine connoisseur obviously) and we had a picnic on our balcony as we had not really eaten all day and the nearby restaurants do not open til seven pm. We have not used Euros since Estonia. Nine countries, nine currencies, even though most of them (Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania) are in the EU. For the next three weeks we will only need Euros..
At 730 we walked to the Trattoria, stepped in, all white tablecloths, mirrors and gorgeous light fixtures. Quick as a wink the staff were wrestling me out of my coat, which consists of a black nylon hooded rain jacket over a blue fleece jacket, really awkward getting the two off at once. Anyway, we are not exactly fashion plates but we brazened it out and tried not to gasp when the menu was presented.
Two water and a toothpick please.
By this time a basket of assorted bread and rolls had arrived along with a glass carafe of carbonated water. After eye contact gestures we decide to have pasta bolognese, the first course, and skip the main. A fairly skimpy bowl of pasta arrived and we ate slowly and chewed carefully.
pasta is a first course in Italy

pasta is a first course in Italy

This was one of the smallest meals of our trip and hopefully the most expensive. But an experience all the same. Before bringing the pasta they brought us each a little polenta wedge with something on top, and when they took away the empty pasta dishes they brought little tarts. We each ordered dessert, Jeff had gelato and I had creme brulee and the bill was fifty euro which is our combined food budget for a day and a half. Consequently, we will be having more picnics. It was funny when we left, the lady server was holding my blue fleece, the gentleman had my limp black rain jacket and eventually they got me bundled back up and on my way.
We loved our 35 euro a night hotel room, Arcoveggio Hotel, so much we wanted to stay an extra day but they were booked solid so we took a city bus to the train station, and bought train tickets to Florence for just thirty euro for two tickets on a high speed train, some kind of good discount. The train was leaving at four pm, so being too cheap to pay five euros each to check our packs we walked to the centre of Bologna, pretty city, blocks of shops, nice square. Along the way we passed through miles of covered arcades in the central shopping district, nicely protecting us from the weather. Bologna is the culinary capital of Italy apparently. It also has the oldest University in the WORLD, dates back to 1088.
Cappuccino in Italy

Cappuccino in Italy

The train was very comfortable, most of the trip was in a tunnel, with very brief flashes of green countryside and small mountains, we talked with Tanya, a lovely girl from Rome who spoke good English, she had lived in Miami for a year, also England, and had worked on a cruise ship. She told us to go to San Gimignano.... instead of Siena, she knew we would like it better and she was right. Because we talked about the good Italian coffee after all that tea in Turkey she gave us each a lovely coffee chocolate. Nice girl.

Florence Tuscany Italy

Rolling hills, green with shots of gold, it seems to be early autumn in Tuscany. The roses and pots of geraniums are still blooming.
Can there be anything more beautiful than the countryside around Florence in mid November? Grape vines, olive trees, umbrella pines. Quaint villages perched on hills. For about fifteen dollars each we took a day trip to San Gimignano, but that will come later as it happened on 16 November.
We arrived in Florence, the Renaissance capital of the world, on 14 November. We stayed at the Gennessio Hotel, walking distance from the train station, up a few flights of stairs, for three nights. We had originally planned to stay one night and go to Sienna but after we had settled into our room and discovered it was clean and had a nice breakfast room decided to stay an extra night. The second night we moved to a larger nicer room with two windows and a lovely view, clean, good sheets and pillows, so at a little over fifty canadian a night we decided to stay three nights. Breakfast was included and we could get some English on the tv. These tvs are so small I can barely see them.
Our room in Florence came with breakfast

Our room in Florence came with breakfast

I am lucky with my dim vision that I am taking in as many sites as I have been, without Jeff I would be wandering around in a haze. Yes, I am wearing glasses, they just cannot correct me enough to see twenty twenty, I am lucky I can see the walk signs let alone the street signs.
So we picked up bread, olives paste, salami, antipasto and chocolate bars and had our supper in our room.
15 November, beautiful sunny day but with all the shade in Florence it was still a bit chilly. The streets are narrow, the buildings tall and it is absolutely picturesque. We walked down to the square near the railway station and hooked up with the free walking tour at 1030 am. The guide did not speak as clear English as some we have had so I was straining at times to understand, heavy on the architectural details. Because of this tour we went to St Croce square where some very famous people are buried inside the church. Being buried inside a church is a better guarantee of getting to heaven or so it seemed back then.
St Croce Square

St Croce Square

Some really big guns are buried here so we paid the six euro admission and photographed the final resting spots of Galileo, Michaelangelo, Machiavelli and Marconi. We sat awhile in the sunny courtyard of the church, it was so quiet, peaceful and warm. Other tourists were there writing in their journals and eating their little picnics but it was very quiet and nice.
Both gelato and sorbet were invented in Florence. Also little wooden pinnochio ornaments are everywhere.
Pinnochio store

Pinnochio store

We stopped for panini for lunch at a small bar type establishment, and then continued on our way. Panini makes a nice, filling and inexpensive meal.
We walked down by the river, and looked at the many bridges and then bought tickets to the world famous Uffizi museum I think 12.50 euros. There are rooms and rooms of paintings, I lost Jeff and spent an hour looking for him, he finally found me. Also numerous sculptures, we were there almost two hours and then trundled back to the hotel where we had another picnic supper, the bread crust is so hard you can hardly break it open and just shatters. but it is good bread, although I think Turkey had awesome bread and similar in taste to good homemade bread in Canada. Now for some reason I thought Michaelangelos David was in the Uffizi, we looked and looked and finally asked somebody only to find out that no, David is at the Accademia where we did not go. Time and money are both factors but also sore feet and burn out are another. We saw so many marble statues of naked men, some of their feet were so detailed you could see the veins and their toes and toe nails were really life-like. I did not examine the rest of these figures in such detail, but am sure they were painstakingly carved into the marble.

San Gimignano, Tuscan Hills

16 November was a gorgeous sunny day. We took the bus from Florence to San Gimignano in the Tuscan hills. The round trip was thirteen euro each. We had to change buses in Poggilbonsi, but the wait inbetween was not too long. The entire trip took about two hours getting there and just over an hour and a half to get back.
The countryside is breathtaking really. Very green, lush rolling hills, vineyards, olive groves, trees, villas, villages, fields, gorgeous, with the mountains in the distance.
San Gimignano is a medieval town, with narrow streets, sweeping vistas of the Tuscany hills, charming and quaint, totally picturesque and easy to walk around. I still think Tallin Estonia has an awesome fairy tale old town but San Gimignano is a contender. The buildings are high, many towers, shop after shop of leather, souvenirs, purses, shoes, pottery, bakeries, candy. Yes, this would be a good place to stay over night and soak up the Tuscan sun. We enjoyed our day trip immensely. We had a coffee and sweets and panini in a bakery/restaurant, really good apple cake. The coffee here is fabulous, served with a little chocolate. The staff were friendly, boisterous even.

We spent several hours in possibly the most charming village in the world, San Gimignano an easy day trip from either Florence or Siena and a good place to spend a few days for some down time. If you want to see a Medieval town in Tuscany this is the place!

Located about 56 km south of Florence, or roughly halfway between Florence and Sienna the town of San Gimignano is built on a hillside overlooking lush valleys. In the third century BC it was the sight of an Etruscan village. A wall was constructed in the seventh Century and it still has fourteen tower houses built in feudal times by wealthy residents. It is a Unesco World Heritage Sight.

Our bus trip back was kind of stressful. When we got off the bus outside the old walled city the driver waved his hand to indicate the spot where we would catch the bus home. We had a schedule and waited, some other people were there too and finally a bus came along with the town name, Poggilbonsi, written on it. It looked like a school bus and was filled with junior high maybe high school kids. Every body got on so we hopped on too and then looked at each other, my god this cannot be the right bus, but we were careening towards the town. When we got there we got off at a stop with some kids and wandered around looking for the bus station where we had made our morning transfer. As it turns out we found it fifteen minutes later and some of the same people who had been on the school bus with us were also waiting for the bus back to Florence, so I guess it was the right bus after all and and we got in an extra walk unnecessarilly. Anyway we made it back to Florence safe and sound on the top deck of a double decker bus, sweeping views of the Tuscan hills, greener than green, with little shots of gold as a few trees are changing colour.

When we got back to Florence we booked our rail tickets to Rome for seventeen November. There was no discount and we could have shopped around but having stood in line for half an hour to find out tickets would be forty three euro each I just bit the bullet and bought them. Then we walked back to the hotel, stopping to have a bowl of tortellini on the way, five euros each and I had a half glass of fairly good red wine to wash that down for two euros. The parmesan cheese is really good, it isnt that kind that comes out of a box. You know in North America how the waiter comes around with the big pepper grinder and asks if you would like some fresh ground pepper and then grinds it over your food like he is really adding something special to your dish, ridiculous when you think about it. They do that in Italy with parmesan cheese and it really is a big deal and good.
Florence really is a must see in Italy. We love it. And imagine if you were into art history and architecture it would be totally worth it to come here. We could have stayed a week but we have to get to Rome and see the sights there too and with only four full days in Rome it will be tight. The weather has been sunny, there are numerous outdoor cafes but we only like the ones in the sunshine as it is chilly in the shade. Locals drink their coffee standing up by a bar or stand up table, being tourists, and Canadians, we prefer to sit down and take it easy while we sip our cappucinos and espressos.
This time of year there are not big line ups to the museums but apparently when it is forty C in summer tourists line up for four hours to get their tickets to the Uffizi and then are so worn out they can barely see everything in that huge gallery. We got in within five minutes so this is a good time of year to come to Florence. 17 November was another sunny day. There are many towers where people used to live, tall buildings, where shops or artisan areas are on the main floor and where in old times the owner could protect himself from enemies and invaders by dumping boiling water on them (or whatever method he chose, maybe burning oil.)
The rich people of course like the Medicis lived in huge complexes likely built around a central square where they may have done business as although the Medicis were bankers they engaged in other business endeavors as well. So the central courtyard would be used to sell their wares. The business would be on the first floor, the family would basically live on the second floor and the servants would live on the third floor.
Now on the exterior of the buildings the rich owners were required to provide some street light for safety, less fighting among the rabble. They were also required to build in benches for pilgrims and travellers to rest so there are nice cement benches sticking out of old buildings all around Florence except not at the train station where they really need them. There were also places on the outside of the homes for people to tie up their horses, kind of providing parking so that people could come into their courtyard and do business.
seats on the wall in Florence

seats on the wall in Florence

Gelato and sherbet were invented when a rich Medici was preparing a wedding feast and put up a competition for somebody to invent a dish and so a bright Italian went up to the mountains and brought back snow and froze milk, added egg yolks, sugar, etc and came up with gelato. And they call Bologna the Culinary Capital of Italy.
So this morning we trundled off to see the Duomo. This is one of the largest churches in the world, has a huge dome and is made of marble which is a common building material around here, marble walks, stairs, floors, etc. We told the guards that we were going in to pray, so we did not have to buy a ticket. Some of the stained glass is by Donatello and we had a little prayer and admired the wonderful painting on the ceilings as well.
We had pizza for the first time for lunch and it was thin crust which I recommend.
So now we have to pack up our backpacks and walk over to the train station, our train leaves at two fourteen and gets into Rome at 345 and I have our hostel, guest house type thing, booked, Cristina's Residence. It is walking distance from the central terminal. The train was nice we had seats by the window, very comfortable and wifi. The scenery was amazing but most of the time we were in a tunnel so if you want to see the country side go by bus.
We actually have a map of Rome so that is a first and we have pretty good directions to the hotel so we find it within twenty minutes of walking. The guy who lets us in says "there has been a mix up but we have prepared a small room and we will move you to a larger one tomorrow". Well it is small with a bunk bed but it has a private bath and it is bigger than a train compartment and smaller than the cabin we had on the Viking Ship from Stockholm to Turku Finland which remains in my mind one of the biggest all time bargains, fifty dollars each with a private room and private bath from Stockholm to Turku, Finland, all night sailing. Great deal. Anyway our room is clean it has what we need and we get BBC on the TV and wifi actually works in the room. There is a nice courtyard outside of the hotel and we are on a quiet street near the university. May I mention 130 dollars Canadian for three nights including breakfast and taxes. Not bad for a world class city like Rome.
I am excited as I have arranged an audience with the Pope on Wednesday we have to pick up our tickets Tuesday night. We will have an audience along with six thousand other people but hey, I will only pass this way once and the pope is a very famous guy.
Tonight we are just relaxing, will go out for pasta later and will watch the news on BBC we don't know too much what is happening in the world so it is nice to catch up and then tomorrow we will have a full day of sight seeing. I expect to be pretty busy over the next few days and hope I see all the important sites. We will tour the Vatican Museum Wednesday since we are there anyway seeing the pope.
It seems a bit warmer here, soft air, we are near water. We are near sea level. We like it here.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 03:10 Archived in Italy Tagged churches museums world heritage budget medieval unesco backpacking sight rennaisance tuscan_hills budget_hotels Comments (0)

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