An Italian Adventure


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April 14th 2013
Published: April 16th 2013
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Greetings,

We had a lot of requests for blog updates from loyal subscribers but we can't promise the usual standard given we have a new member of the team who is quite demanding!!!

So we are in Firenze (Florence). Just arrived by train from rome and getting settled in. So far, to answer the million dollar question, Katy has been a total champion traveller. There were some grumpy babies on the plane but our possum was not one of them! Yay, phew!

Rome was lovely. We stayed in an apartment near the Vatican and set out each day by metro to explore. Sadly due to Dubai airport having a total meltdown when it unexpectedly rained we were several hours late arriving so our exploring was delayed til Monday morning. Up and about early we managed to cover several bridges, ancient churches, piazzas, markets, the forum, colosseum and pantheon in a mammoth orgy of sightseeing.

Gotta say, the pantheon was a real highlight. Having now also seen St. Peter's dome, the simple asceticism of the pantheon dome was just awe inspiring. It literally took our breath away. We also loved the ancient ruins and their juxtaposition alongside modern rome. Strangely, unlike like the pyramids from where you have jarring views of cairo's urban sprawl, the roman ruins seem to belong in their setting. Genuinely part of their city for all eternity.

Apart from our breath, the other thing Rome took away was our drivers licences, credit card and cash. Having been comprehensively worded up on the devious tricks of pickpocketers in Rome, we were on high alert for babies to be tossed at us while we unthinkingly caught them and got robbed (seriously, its a thing!). Sadly we were not ready for the simple brush and grab on a crowded metro. Grrrrr!! Oh well. We still had our passports and back up credit card and managed to cancel our card straight awa so no lasting harm was done.

Day two in Rome took us to the Trevi fountain. The most amazing thing about Rome is walking the streets and taking a turn and ending up in an impossibly picturesque piazza surrounding an ancient statue, column or fountain. Then a few more turns down a cobble stoned back lane and another gorgeous discover. Trattorias with red and while checked table cloths set under pergolas grown over with vines and gelaterrias filled with heaped swirls of sweet delight. Fading frescoes decorating old house facades and ancient churches now surrounded by apartment buildings with painted wooden shutters and window boxes bright with flowers. We could not have asked for more beauitful sights.

Anywa I was secretly worried I would either miss or be disapointed by the Trevi fountain when I saw it. How wrong I was! No such fear. Wow. So gaudy and overblown and again just casually sitting in a piazza awaiting discover. Fortified with some strong cafe and the worlds most amazing hot chocolate (Oh My Goodness the hot chocolate over here is AMAZING!!) and we set off for the Spanish steps and panoramic views over the terracotta roof tops.

That afternoon was all about the Vatican museum. Local tips suggested visisting on a Tuesday afternoon and there was a much shorter queue than usual. However even that queue was made shorter by the simple exercise of wheeling Katy in her stroller up to a guard and asking where the stroller entrance was. We were waved through the queue and then Katy and I were even waved through the security check point (no such luck for Ev who had the whole shebang to get through!) Seriously, my travel tip is to bring a baby with you to Italy. We are always jumping the queue with Katy in tow! It is really realy cool.

The Vatican museum is big and overwhelming. Consider hiring an audio guide. We saw some incredible renaissance art treasures including Raphael's last painting The Transfiguration and some amazing Grecian statuary. The building itself is a treasure with frescoed ceilings and exquisitely decorated chambers. One passageway is decorated with hand painted frescoe maps of all the regions of Italy. It is an amazing place.

<br style="color:� font-family: Helvetica; font-size: medium; line-height: normal; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(26, 26, 26, 0.296875); -webkit-composition-fill-color: rgba(175, 192, 227, 0.230469); -webkit-composition-frame-color: rgba(77, 128, 180, 0.230469); -webkit-text-size-adjust: auto;" />Then of course the Sistine chapel. Again thanks to Katy we scored access to superior viewing areas - best travel companion ever!!! Well worth the crink in our necks from surveying the ceiling!! Just incredible. Just amazing. Wow. Wow. Seriously wow. Took a covert pic - apparently a Japanese company funded the restoration in exchange for exclusive image rights and this is why you cannot take photos inside so we were very naughty!! Another local tip helped us avoid a long trek to St. Peter's basilica - sneaking out the tour group exit to the Sistene chapel which spits you out right at the entrance to the church! To be honest we were impressed but it was almost too big and the dome was amazing but we were more awed by the simple ascetism of the pantheons dome. St Peters reminded us a lot of the aya Sophia in Istanbul.

Next day we had a leisurely start to the day and then headed to the train station to catch a regionale tren to Firenze (florence). Katy has been happily napping in her stroller so we parked her in the vestibule next to our seats and let her doze away. Lush green Italian country side opened up which was a welcome break after the frankly dusty streets of Rome.We had booked our tickets for the Uffizi gallery in advance thanks to another travel tip. Our slot was at two which was lovely and quiet and really you must book in advance if you go here. Hillariously even our advance booking was improved by Katy and I being waved through the security check - again!! Mothers in Italy are very well looked after!!!

Having learnt from the overwhelming Vatican experience we were armed with an audio tour this time which made the museum experience much better. We can now tell you all about the birth of the renaissance and its significance!! Highlights were Botticelli's birth of Venus, early Raphael, Michelangelo and titian paintings. Again the building itself was incredible - rooms decorated in divine frescoes, casually amazing ceilings and exquisite views of the river and ponte vecchio bridge from the upper galleries.A quick stroll around the city and we stumbled into the duomo (cathedral). The wonder of its dome and facade was quite incredible. The facade is decorated in red white and green marble which was in celebration of the unification of Italy and it is just amazing. The next day while Katy and Evan had caffe in the piazza I climbed the duomo's campanile (bell tower) for incredible views which were earned by climbing 414 worn stone stairs up and back down again! Florence is such a beautiful town. The medieval tile roofed buildings, the fortified city walls and bridges (the pointe vecchio has been standing since 1400's) are so charming to wander amongst. We had a lovely walk to town from our hotel down cobblestoned narrow alleys with walls painted in the Tuscan reds, ochres and yellows of the post cards. Highlights of day 2 here were seeing Michelangelos David in the Academie gallery which for its sheer technical mastery and graceful execution is one of the true art treasures of the world. We stayed for 45 minutes just circling and marveling at it. Truly truly magnificent. Wow. And again thanks to Katy we skipped the long slow queue just by holding her while casually asking the guards how long the queue was for entry!!! Love you Katy bear!!

The highlight of Florence for Katy was a visit to the city library childrens section which if you are travelling with kids to Florence is a must see. There were toys, books in tubs on the floor, big carpeted areas and lots of other children for Katy to smile and wave at.Last bit before we dash off to our walking tour of Tuscany is a mention of the food. Oh so so good!!! We have had some amazingly innovative pasta dishes - sauces with cream and pistachio nuts, chestnuts and gorgonzonzola and wild boar ragu. The gelato count for this trip has so far included over fifteeen flavours including hazelnut, cherry, strawberry,coconut and pineapple. And Italian hot chocolate is sooooo divine!!!Well we are off for a walk in the Tuscan country side after Katy wakes from her nap so arriverderci friends and family Xx

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16th April 2013

WOW!
Have been wondering like crazy how you have been going, thanks for the update, am so incredibly in awe and wishing I was there too! I put some pics up for you on FB of Rich & Polly's wedding, it was a lovely afternoon. missed you though!! WOW, guys, jaw dropping, how fabulous Love lots xxxxx
17th April 2013

What a wonderful adventure
Thanks heaps for your update, we have been thinking of you. What a wonderful time you are having with Katy. Does she also enjoy roman hot chocolate? You look rugged up, I hope the weather is kind to you particularly during your Tuscan trek. We are glad you are having a great time. Take care, keep well and safe. Lotsa luv.

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