Italy

Trip Start Aug 13, 2005
1
15
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Trip End Jan 03, 2006


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Wednesday, January 4, 2006

On December 12th I landed at the Malpensa station in Milano Italy. 5 hours later, my best girlfriend landed as well. As always Laura knew just what to say immediately ("you're so tanned"yay!! First time ever to have someone tell me that), Ant you're the greatest! Laura and I took off into the city in search of our hotel (thanks Poppa) and Jonny. We had a quick catch up and then went out to eat some dinner (mmmm Italian Pizza). I had my first hot bath that night (drawn by Jonny, Kiss kiss, thanks a million sweets it was fabulous) and a bottle of wine (double mmm). The next day it was to Lake Como. Only about 45 minutes by train, lake como is a perfect day trip from Milan. I was definitely feeling the cold by this point but Laura kept reassuring me that it was warmer than Canada...:-(
We took an incredible bus ride up the mountain to Belaggio, a land of sun, beach, water, and the Swiss Alps. The Alps were beautiful, and since we were traveling in Off Season, no one was around to disturb the peace. We sat and drank a ridiculously expensive coffee by the water and stared for hours at the Alps (see pics on this page). After a tour of the city and some bird feeding (Laura was almost attacked) we made our way back to Como and Milan. The next stop was Verona and we arrived, (later than expected because we got a little lost, although did learn the new phrase "doveh" meaning "where is...") at our 18th Century Villa hostel. It was pretty and cold. We slept, ate breakfast and left our bags to go explore. We saw the Roman amphitheater, ruins, a castle, ate Gelatto at 10 am (despite my cries of "its too cold!")and saw the incredible Colosseum. The Verona Colosseum was by far my favourite, its big, well looked after, and not overcrowded, infact very few people were there (see pics). We spent the afternoon exploring the little streets of Verona (Char the Louis Vuitton pic is for you). Then we hit the train and ventured out for Venice.
Venice as promised was beautiful. Its a quiet (no land motor vehicles allowed) beautiful little town. I felt like we had entered an old Charles Dickens town (it was probably suppose to feel more Shakespearean) and I loved it. We spent one full day visiting the sites on the vaporetto. We took an Adrienne and Rick Steve's guided tour of the line 5 through the old water ways of Venice. The buildings have had little work done on them (because the local law makers forbid it) which keeps is authentic, yet falling apart appeal. We visited Saint Marco's square and of course the Cathedral (see pics). We went to the Murano Island to watch glass blowing, and I dragged poor Laura and Jonny to a million little stores until I found a ring that would fit, but they were really good sports (love you long time). We roamed the little streets, eat from a local baker, and Jonny drank from the fountain. Laura loved the little quiet side streets, and I have to agree that they were beautiful. Then we took a ridiculously long time getting to an Island that has a little church, once we saw the Church we stood and waited...and looked around, and realized that there really was nothing else on that rock...so we stood and waited...and then got a Vaporetto back to civilization. The ride on the vaporetto was really nice though and we did get to see a lot of Venice.
The next morning Laura and I woke up early and headed out to see when our train was leaving. There wasn't anything else we really wanted to see in Venice (very doable in a day) but we stopped in a little Cafe for some people watching (yay!!).
The train took us to Rome and then Naples. It was a full day of travel but it let us see a lot of Italy. Laura and I dined on the train (see pic...mmmm Olives). We arrived in a Naples, which is actually a sad little town with a 35% unemployment rate and sky high crime levels. We stayed in a dodgey hotel close to the train station and left ASAP the next morning. We met up with a fellow Canadian globetrotter (who we referred to as 'what's up' guy) and together traveled to Pompeii. Pompeii was only 30-45 minutes away by train. I was really excited to see the sights and had my expectations met. Pompeii was outstanding, it was really spectacular. The city is massive, and as Laura had forewarned there were chariot wheel marking in the streets, paintings on the wall, brothels (which we didn't get to see), a amphitheater, a Colosseum, a gladiator training camp...etc. We exhausted ourselves from wandering for six hours, and never even saw it all. There is still more to be excavated, so I am excited to go back one day and see the rest.
After Pompeii it was Rome. I expected Rome to be the highlight for me. Sadly I was disappointed. The ruins lie right in the middle of Rome with major road ways, tons of tourist traps, and shops all over. The ruins weren't marked very well, so thanks to a little guide pamphlet and the Rick Steve's book we were able to figure out what things were. Otherwise it was just a bunch of ruins which no significance. I would suggest a guide as a worthwhile investment for anyone else who goes. We visited Palentine Hill, which was pretty, but Laura agreed with Rick Steves that there really wasn't much to see. I enjoyed the little museum, and we both really thought the chariot race track was cool (Poppa, do you think we could have one in our backyard?) but we both wanted to see a re-enactment, but no such option was available to us. I skipped (literally) to the Colosseum. Laura smartly suggested that we buy our combo Palentine Hill/Colosseum tickets at the shorter Palentine Hill line up, so we managed to skip the 90 minute line up. However the Roman Colosseum was a zoo. It was super crowded with hoards of tourists and groups. The bottom of the Colosseum is open (see pics) which was neat because you could see the passage ways for the lions. There was good information on the architecture of the building and its history, but we didn't spend too much time there.
The nicest part of Rome is that everything is really close, at least all of the tourist stuff. In the same day Laura and I managed to visit Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. I didn't appreciate the Pantheon as much as Jonny, but he's correct in the fact that its because he understood the engineering feat that it is much better than I. Laura was super pumped to see the Trevi Fountain and sadly we were both a little disappointed. It is very pretty but not to the extent that we had expected. We found a little pub, grabbed a couple of pints and had an incredible night just chatting away and catching up on our lives (thanks for that Laura). We had midnight pizza at a cute little restaurant and then went back to the hostel for some shut eye.
The next morning in typical Adrienne fashion we arrived late to meet Jonny and Phil at St.Peter's Basilica (I swear it was the metro, we would have only been 15 minutes late otherwise). I have to admit that I did not think St. Peter's or the Vatican would be overly impressive and they weren't on my top ten list, but I was astounded. The Vatican especially took my breath away. There are pictures for you to see, but they don't do the sights any justice. The Vatican is incredible! Jonny and I share the same sense of humour at times so we were able to joke around about the Vatican violence and the misuse of Africa in gathering the money, skill, and accumulating the wealth to built and house such an impressive building and monument. But the place is truly spectacular. There are no pictures of the Sistine chapel. They did not allow pictures to be taken, but it is equally impressive. The ceiling is amazing, and standing in silence staring at the work of incredibly talented painters, among hundreds of visitors equally amazed is quite an experience. I can't explain it better, just go!
After the Vatican (which closes at 1 pm to all visitors) Jonny, Laura and I went for some lunch and gelatto. We walked around the city and went to a pub in the evening. Jonny and Phil parted from Laura and I for the remainder of the trip. Laura and I were off to Pisa the next morning. The sight is far from the train station, but with our three hour layover we had plenty of time to sight see and check out the local market where I spotted all the goods from Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Benin. Pisa is an architectural masterpiece, and although we didn't take the 15 euro climb to the top, it is easy to appreciate from the ground. The train took us on to Milan. We spent our last day in Milan and caught a ballet at La Scala Opera House (Europe's finest) that night (see the 'posh' pics in our box seat).
Italy was incredible, but Jonny and Laura really completed the trip. I can't thank either of you enough. I was really sad to leave Ghana, and culture shock was a little tough for me, but you were both there, and you tried to understand, that's more than I could ever ask for. Kiss kiss.
Ciao.
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