Europe » Italy » Veneto » Belluno May 15th 2013

My final resting place today is in Belluno, which lies at the start of the impressive Dolomite mountain range. We had been looking forward to mountain air and views. Unfortunately, luck was not with me, and I took a tumble on the ferry trip to the airport having missed a step, which has left me hobbling around with a sprained foot. I'm in no condition to walk up and down steep trails. What that means, is hopefully my backlog of blog entries will finally be published. I initially fought my fate, dreaming up plans to go up ski lifts or to buy crutches, but everything I might do is short of a proper walk, and I'm better off promising myself to return to this rugged country, and to make a date with the computer.... read more

Europe » Italy » Veneto » Venice May 14th 2013

In an effort to escape the feeling that we are in an adult amusement park I walk into the farther reaches of Cannaregio, known as the original "ghetto". In old times Jews were second class citizens but as merchants and jewelers it was more efficient to have them in the city, but they were relegated to the outskirts. The area was quiet and some facades were crumbling, but it still has charm. We decide to escape the endless crowded alleys of Venice and make good use of our transport passes with a ferry ride to Burano, known for its hypercolorful colors, and Torcello, home of a basilica also with impressive mosaics. The 30 minute ride passes the floating cemetery and Murano, the island of glass blowers. Apparently the heat necessary to glass blowing was too much ... read more
Canal in Cannaregio

Europe » Italy » Veneto » Venice May 13th 2013

Goodbye lovely Florence, hello exquisite Venice. From the moment the train seemingly skims over the water to pull into Venezia St Lucia, it is apparent that the city likes to make entrances. You never know what might lie around the next corner, though it is a sure bet in some areas that you will have high frequency of mask, fine glasswork, or jewelry shops. Our mediocre hotel is on the edge of the Cannaregio district, and we walk down the winding alleyways and across bridges towards Piazza San Marco, passing numerous touristy shops, pausing to watch the expert glass blower make shimmery scarabs with delicate spindly legs. I'd be tempted to buy one if I thought it would survive transport. Past many familiar chain clothing stores, with throngs of people on the main commercial street we ... read more
Sweets shop
(One of many) view of canal
Down a narrow commercial alley

Europe » Italy » Tuscany » Florence May 10th 2013

We roll into Florence by midday, and relaxedly wander through town. We have lunch at a nearby vegetarian cafe, bveg, and head to the Duomo via a high end shopping district. We grab gelato at the first gelato shop we see, where the servers wear little sailor hats, and the cones are stacked into cone trees. The fruit sorbet looks enticingly icy. We encounter over ten more gelato vendors in our walk; there are gelato shops every other corner in the center of town. The streets are narrow but the traffic is not as chaotic as in Naples. Blond buildings uniformly have dark green or brown shutters as we walk from the area southwest of the train station eastward. Suddenly the Duomo looms ahead above the buildings, a terracotta dome on a basilica with dramatic white ... read more
Fantastical ironwork
Crowds around the Duomo

Europe » Italy » Campania » Ischia May 5th 2013

I hadn't meant to devote my day to the Giro, but Ischia basically shut down to everything except the race. Buses were not serving any part of the island where the race was for the whole day apparently. So, I was stranded, but that made the day easier. Ischia is a sweet resort town, with thermal spas which we unfortunately couldn't visit easily. We instead walk in the shopping district, eat gelato, and partake of the crowds. This was a team time trial, so each team starts together on their own, spaced 3 minutes apart. A row of young ladies stand on the stage, and their job is to hold the bikes while the cyclists perch at attention on their bikes on the countdown. Further down the road a policeman on a motorcycle waits until given ... read more
Passing the mainland
Cyclist and support vehicle on test run

Europe » Italy » Campania » Naples May 4th 2013

Today was skull day, all the way. Several locations are prime for viewing skulls from the cult of the souls in Purgatory. As outlined in my tour materials, those who could not afford a proper burial in a church in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were buried in a large grave in the hypogeum, the space below the main hall of the church. The unnamed bones gave rise to the cult, who took care of the skulls and bones and prayed for a lessening of the time in Purgatory for these souls, with the idea that these souls, once in Heaven, could return the favor. I visited three of them in quick succession: Santa Maria del Purgatorio ad Arco, the catacombs di San Gaudioso in the Santa Maria della Sanità, and the Cimitero delle Fontanelle. Both ... read more
Embedded skeleton at Santa Maria della Sanita
Skulls with houses
Santa Maria della Sanita

Europe » Italy » Campania » Naples May 3rd 2013

One of the most enticing thing listed in the online "top things to do in Naples", aside from eating awesome pizza, are the the underground tours. There are Roman cisterns turned war bunker, and the foundations of the Roman era city. We do both in the morning. Both tours are in the old town, with its tall apartments towering over narrow cobblestone alleys. We hit upon the trinkets alley along the way and see numerous themes: red pepper ornaments, ornaments with fools in black masks, "calamites" which are miniature cones (simplified cornucopias?) filled with pasta or miniatures of bread, grain, or bingo pieces (presumably for good luck), and depictions of religious themes. As I discover from a vendor, there are three things that are good luck in Naples: red peppers, horseshoes, and a humpback (!). What ... read more
Narrow streets
Underground cavern
Glimpses of beauty

Europe » Italy » Campania » Naples May 2nd 2013

I finally arrive in Naples, after over 24 hours of traveling by train. The sun is shining and the air is warm, unlike the city I started my journey in, Berlin. After fruitless searching for a metro map to see if a metro line passed near the hotel, I settle for walking. The day should be easy. My friends are arriving in several hours, and I have just two goals for the day: buy an Italian sim card (with data plan), and eat pizza. The path to the hotel is straightforward enough along a wide commercial street Corso Umberto 1, lined with many clothing stores and street vendors. I would take advantage of this in the days to come, since I came with only my Converse, and no sandals. Crossing the big street are many narrow ... read more
The real deal
Marina and Vesuvius
Galleria Umberto

Oceania » Australia » Victoria » Melbourne January 28th 2013

The photos can speak for themselves. Wander the streets, you will see art. I particularly love Fitzroy. I only saw a few museums, but I can recommend the National Gallery and the ACMI. Mostly free with high quality exhibitions. The National Gallery is a beautiful space, with the water wall and the stained glass ceiling the highlights for me. I also love how they promote art as accessible, with their doodle pad at the entrance, and and the drawing session I stumbled upon, where numerous people sat in a room with a lecturer with paper and pencils provided. Really enjoyed the Candice Breitz exhibit at the ACMI - fun and poignant video installations. In other parts of Federation Square we found other striking art - the woodsy constructs of Patrick Dougherty, and in the main square ... read more
Brunswick street
street art in Fitzroy
Mural in Fitzroy - left

Oceania » Australia » Victoria » Melbourne January 26th 2013

Australia Day, you see it coming weeks in advance, yet as a tourist I wasn't sure what one could do for this day. The stereotypical July 4th celebration in the US consists of a bbq with friends and fireworks. As a solitary tourist, I didn't have a posse of friends, but I did have my bunk buddy, AM, who I'd met the evening before. We started the day with a leisurely breakfast and fun chitchat. We stumble onto the aboriginal celebrations, which was full of life and food and hiphop - we even joined the massive led crowd hip hop dance party. They basically celebrated a message of openness and acceptance of all cultures, especially suppressed ones. I can get behind that. We continued towards Federation Square and saw some awesome live music (Diafrix). We ended ... read more
Generous gentleman
Aboriginal sentiments
celebrations on Australia Day

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