Hello, my friends!
If you have read my blog post on Venice, you would already know that we had travelled to Italy in end March. We were there for 11 days and covered just the 3 big cities – Rome, Venice and Florence. In this post I will be penning down our experiences in Rome and Florence.
Our flight was in and out of Rome. It was a
long very long (!!!) 14 hour flight from Singapore that landed at 7am in the morning. So we had stayed the day in Rome and had taken Eurail to Venice the next day. Even though we were a bit tired, the excitement of travel helped us to visit the Colosseum and the ruins of the Roman Forum that day, after a good hearty Italian brunch.
Our hotel was close to Roma Termini, the main train station. Although there is an underground rail network, we decided to walk from the hotel to the Colosseum and back, soaking in the warm Italian sun. Rome is a reasonably large city but it’s filled with really old churches and piazzas quite literally after every few steps. The weather was lovely – sunny with temperatures very pleasant between 10-18C, so walking was no problem. This time we had taken two strollers for the two kids and we didn’t face any problems like paved roads or inaccessible areas due to steps, etc.
I loved the architecture and the colours of the buildings which were so different from other European cities like London, Paris, etc.
The Colosseum is majestic! It must have been a place of wonder to the citizens of ancient Rome when it was built nearly 2000 years ago.
Even though it was shoulder season, there was a long queue for tickets. We made the mistake of buying tickets from a person hawking private guided tours for Colosseum and Roman Forum on the promise of no queuing. While there was nothing fraudulent about it, the guided tour itself was very quick lasting only around 20 minutes inside the structure. The disappointment was that immediately after finishing the Colosseum tour, the tour guide asked the group to join her in the Roman Forum. No time to explore the Colosseum itself a bit more. We decided otherwise and looked around on our own for a while taking some rest and some photos.
We felt we would have been better off if we had queued up and bought tickets along with audio guides. The queue had moved quickly is what we found. Thinking now, we probably couldn’t have made full use of the audio guides – what with two little kids (they really did not bother much about the Colosseum, they only wanted Gelatos!!!)
Coming out we went into the adjacent ruins of the Roman Forum – a place of trade, gatherings, social interactions in ancient Rome. It was late afternoon and we were already feeling quite tired so we didn’t really take any decent photo of these ruins. We just about managed to take this photo of the victory Arch of Constantine.
We had travelled to Venice and Florence after this and came back to Rome towards the end of our trip. In the second leg we were staying in a hotel near the Spanish Steps.
The Spanish Steps, pictured above, was unusually not crowded at the time because it had just drizzled – otherwise it was full of people every time we passed it. I loved the atmosphere over here, thronging with life, laughter and music!
We were within walking distance of some of the major attractions like the Trevi Fountain…
…whose photos I had seen aplenty but its size surprised me! It is beautiful!! I cannot emphasise more on how magnificent the fountain looked even though the crowd was unbelievable. My elder son did manage to throw quite a few coins into the water wishing to come back here again!
The ancient buildings of the Pantheon and Adrian’s Temple (pictured below) were close by. I loved seeing the really talented street performers in all the big piazzas.
Rome probably has the largest number of churches in any city in the world – it’s not possible to be more than 100metres away from a church I guess. Below is one of such churches in the beautiful Piazza Navona.
Apart from the architecture, we loved some of the quirky looking cars – this was one parked right in front of our hotel…
Vatican City ♥
Talking of churches, we visited the grand daddy of them all – St. Peter’s in Vatican City and of course the Vatican Museums. We had bought our tickets to the Vatican Museum online in advance and it was just as well looking at the ridiculously long queue stretching all the way outside along the Vatican walls. It’s difficult to explain the beauty of the artwork inside the Vatican Museums – the vast amount that is there and to think that this was all preserved during the wars is mind boggling. Some samples are shown below.
A long corridor with ceiling frescoes and maps on the side walls.
The paint on some of the artwork is so bright that it looks like gold…the photo below doesn’t do justice to the actual wall painting…
It wasn’t just paintings – there were innumerable marble sculptures. This one of Hercules caught my attention because it was made of metal…
Day trip to Anguillara Sabazia ♥
From Rome, we did a daytrip to Anguillara Sabazia. Reached by a short 1 hour train journey to Anguillara station and then by a short bus ride, it is a small laidback old town on the shores of Lake Bracciano. I came to know of this place from Everybody Loves Raymond (American sitcom) – they had filmed the family’s Italy visit in this town, and since then I always wanted to visit this little village!
We had so much fun on the beach chasing ducks and I had the most awesome homemade pasta in a quaint family restaurant here – it was the best food I had had in the whole trip.
There were so many pretty houses by the lake…
Florence & Pisa ♥
We took Eurail from Venice to Florence. I must mention here that seat reservations are a must for intercity trains and best done one day in advance of travel. We faced no queue for reservation in Venice but we faced a long wait in Rome.
On the day we travelled to Florence, we kept our luggage in the hotel and took another train to Pisa. There isn’t much to see in Pisa apart from a large church, it’s baptistery and the bell tower which is better known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa – Torre di Pisa. The green lawn beside the church is well maintained although it was a bit crowded. My sons had a ball of a time rolling about in the grass.
Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance and as such it has a multitude of specimens of art and sculpture from that period. Michelangelo’s work is everywhere. I am not sure I saw the beauty in all of them to the point that I will be spellbound. But still the detail on the marble statue of David is unbelievable – a collage is shown below.
The Accademia had a room full of plaster works and paintings by lesser artists which looked quite impressive too…
Apart from the works of Michelangelo, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral was quite awe inspiring from the outside and the strenuous walk up the innumerable steps up the bell tower was worth the views…
In closing I loved these scenes that I randomly captured on the streets of Florence…
…for me they capture the warmth of the country.
There is so much to see in Italy that it’s not possible to cover in 10-11 days. It’s a warm and sunny place and the cities are so different from any other place we have been to. I so hope to visit this magical country again!
Have you been to Italy? Tell me about your favourite city.