Rome – Florence – Pisa – Venice, 2011
We arrived at Fiumicino Airport Wednesday afternoon (November 2), and went directly to Rome with the taxi we arranged to transport us to our apartment ‘Coppelle White‘ at ‘Via delle Coppelle’ (which is a walking distance to the Pantheon). The trip from the airport to our apartment lasted for about 45 minutes, where the traffic flows smooth, despite the narrow roads in the city.
In the afternoon until evening, armed with a map and Roma Pass, we began exploring the city. On the way home (night time) we passed by the Trevi Fountain which is truly amazing seeing it in person accompanied by the sound of its water flowing.
The following day (November 3), was Sophie’s 6th birthday and one reason why we decided to have this trip. We greeted her in the morning with a gelato cake. Our first itinerary for the day included a visit to The Colosseum, where I can imagine myself transported back in time, watching games and gladiators in action. And yes the long queue, yet we only have 3 Roma Pass none for Sophie. Still we tried to go straight pass the people in line. The guards said we need to buy tickets for the kids. But we said actually one kid got the Roma Pass (I bought Roma Pass for Rinojo as he looks big for an 8yrold and we are not sure if he’s entitled for free transport in the city). For whatever reason they then agreed for Sophie to enter free. It’s overwhelming to be inside the Colosseo, such a wonder of history.
We walked around after to see more ruins then headed to the Vatican. Seeing the Cathedral feels like you’re nearest to heaven, just a dream inside the catholic schools I went to, now came true. We climbed the dome. Paid to ride the elevator to the cathedral’s roof where the saints stood. But yet climbed 320 steps to reach the top of the dome. It was a hard climb, I had to stop in the small windows along the narrow stairways to check the view and rest. Our little energetic Sophia just enjoyed the climb. The reward on top is a stunning view of Rome.
On the third day, we spent the day at Bioparco (which is one of the oldest zoo in Europe) and had a slow day at Villa Borghese Park. On the way back to the apartment, we dropped by at Piazza Navona where we bought a Trudi doll at ‘Berte’ as birthday present for Sophie.
On Saturday, we catch the 6:00 AM train at “Roma Termini” going to “Firenzi S. Maria Novella” in Florence. We arrived in the train station at about 8:00 AM, and went straight to ‘Hotel Nouvo Italia‘ which is a short walking distance from the station (the hotel is just a 2 stars hotel, but just good enough for sleeping anyway, what we liked though is its proximity to the train station). The Church of Santa Maria Novella will greet you from the train station. Since it is still early (check-in is at 12:00 noon) we just deposited our baggage and explored the city.
Compared to Rome, the streets of Florence are peaceful and relaxing. It is a walking city thus you will see very few vehicles on the road. And yes you can visit tourists spots by foot as they are close to each other. Quiet streets and Renaissance buildings makes you feel like you’re in a different time.
The eye catching Piazza del Duomo is such a startling vision in pink, white and green marble, with intricate designs… the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Baptistery, all dazzling and gorgeous.
The kids enjoyed the ride on the antique carousel in the Piazza della Repubblica. We saw plenty of interesting and beautiful statues in Piazza della Signoria. We passed by the Uffizi Gallery on our way to view the Ponte Vecchio on the banks of River Arno. After lunch, we went back to check in the room of the hotel and a bit of siesta.
In the afternoon, we went to Pisa, also via the train station. We bought our train tickets from the ticket machine in the station. We decided to buy one way tickets only as we are not sure on how much time we will consume and we don’t want to hurry ourselves sightseeing just to catch a train back. The trip to Pisa Central Station lasted only 49 minutes, while it took us additional 12 minutes riding a bus to Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo. We definitely need to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and yes it is truly leaning to the delight of our two kids. It is situated behind the Cathedral and Baptistry. We stayed in Pisa for several hours, relaxing and savoring the view of Italy’s iconic landmark before going back to Florence to call it a day.
The next morning the following day until noon, we continued exploring Florence. We visited first the Accademia to try our luck for entrance as we did not reserve tickets ahead of time. There were two spots for entrance, one for those with reservations and another for our kind. Since it was early morning and the museum was still closed, there were just ten of us in line. And finally we saw the world’s most famous sculpture, Michaelangelo’s original, stunning 16-foot David. The kids also enjoyed the other beautiful sculptures all around, especially those of angels, kids, and moms. When we went out of the museum after less than two hours, the non-reserved line was just so long.
We promised another carousel ride, so off we went to Piazza Republicca again. Had some sweets and enjoyed the seat in the nearby Gilli’s cafe, bought some souvenirs from the leather market, lunch.
In the late afternoon, we continued our journey to Venice. We spent about two hours in the train until we arrived at “Venezia S. Lucia” train station. We rode a ‘water bus’ until ‘Rialto Station’, where our hotel for the night ‘Hotel da Bruno‘ is located nearby (this hotel is rated 3 stars but gave us a very comfortable stay). It was raining and already evening, so we just decided to stay in the hotel.The hotel staff said that it had been raining for the past two days but they are expecting it to be sunny the next day.
So the next morning, out came the sun indeed and so we began exploring the city. Piazza San Marco was flooded but who cares it is so beautiful. Since it was Acqua Alta (high water in Venice) due to the rains, we opted to cancel the gondola ride, as well as the slow moving Vaporetto to tour the Grand Canal. The sky is still gloomy, we decided to just enjoy our leisure walk through the narrow yet pretty alleys. Mingled with the busy crowd in Rialto. Had fun with the pigeons. We went up the Bell Tower (they have an elevator), for a rewarding view of Venice. Picturesque and romantic Venice. We can stay sitting in the plazza or near the bay and just marvel to it’s beauty all day.
On Monday evening (November 7) we boarded the train leaving Venice at 6:00 PM and arrived Rome at 10:00PM. We hailed a taxi at the airport towards the apartment.
The city of Rome is indeed magnificent and lovely (including other cities in Italy we visited). I must say that seeing the monuments, paintings and sculptures by my own eyes really is not comparable to looking at it only on pictures and books. I can estimate, we will be needing at least 2 weeks before we explore and appreciate most of the places of interest in Rome.
On Tuesday, we entered ‘Castel d Sant Angelo‘, which Rinojo enjoyed. From here we walked to visit the ‘Vatican Museum’, yet the rain began pouring. We seek shelter at the Post Office, incidentally we earlier inquired on an express courier company about sending religious items to Manila, as these items we can not bring back to Saudi Arabia. We were quoted Euro 74 for a maximum 1 KG package, luckily we said we will come back later the day as the current weight of the items we bought (mostly rosary) is about .60 KG only and we want to maximize the allowable weight. At the post office it was a pleasant surprise that the same package costs only less than Euro 20. After completing the documentation for the package, the rain stopped, then we headed to Vatican Museum. The Museum is a long stretch of fascinating work of arts, it is tiring but rewarding to reach and marvel at the beauty of the ‘Sistine Chapel’, where we took some rest. Luckily the kids enjoyed the family audio guide that we rented from the museum, and that they did not get bored. The Sistine Chapel is located at the end of the museum, and you cannot visit it without passing the entire stretch of the museum. However, there is no exit door upon reaching the chapel, thus we have to go back to where we entered.
Then we went to Santa Susana Church to pick up the tickets for the Papal Blessing scheduled the next day. We reserved this tickets online while we are still in Saudi Arabia. A donation of USD 5 per ticket was recommended, though we gave Euro 5 each as we do not have US Dollars with us. It is already about 6PM and with a scheduled mass. Fortunately the mass was held in English as Santa Susana is an American Parish.
For dinner we decided to look for the only Filipino restaurant in Rome that we searched in the internet, which is walking distance from Santa Susana church. After dinner, we took the ‘Metro’ (train) up to Spagna Station to see the famous Spanish Steps, visited once more the Trevi Fountain, where we flipped some coins again, after which we walked home to call it a day.
On the last day (November 9), we went back to Vatican City to see the Pope for the Wednesday Papal blessing. He looks so different in person, peace radiates from him.
On the way back to the apartment, we stopped by the Pantheon to see it’s interior on our way back. We just picked up our baggage at the apartment where the taxi is waiting at 12:30 noon for our 3:30 PM flight back to Jeddah.
La Dolce Vita.