Places

Italian road trip – Day 6 – Rome

Day 5 ended with us exhausted, crashing onto our beds and having a sound night’s sleep after a paradoxical search for a hotel with available rooms in what is one of the largest cities in the world with plenty of hotels. But that’s how things were that night. We woke up to a beautiful day and we set out to explore Rome.

I had set a grand goal: to show my companions the Rome I knew from 1999, ten years earlier. The part I hadn’t worked out yet in my enthusiasm, was that I’d explored Rome in three weeks, by myself, and now I was going to drag four people in tow to see a lofty list of places in a single day. Make no mistake about it, there were repeated protestations as the day progressed, but it was hard to hear them as I walked ahead at a military pace…

When it was all said and done, after putting my incredibly patient companions through a full day of exploration with little food or drink (there was no time, we had to see everything on my list…), I set another goal: reach a seaside town called Ladispoli by nightfall and find a hotel. Yeah, I did that to them, too! I didn’t let them sleep, I packed them into the car and off we went. I still can’t believe they put up with me. I know I wouldn’t have. Now that I’m in my 40s (this was back in 2009 mind you), I know I wouldn’t do this to myself or to others. The pace was too hectic, we couldn’t take things in. By the end of the day, it was all a blur. Thank goodness we took photos, or else we wouldn’t remember much.

Enjoy our memories from that day!

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Places

Italian road trip – Day 5 – Crossing Italy from Grottammare to Rome

After a hearty breakfast, we explored the Grottammare fortress and beach, then got on the road to Rome. That’s right, that day we planned to cross the whole of Italy, from the coast of the Adriatic Sea almost to the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, which we would reach on our sixth day after exploring Rome. I believe we took the route highlighted on this screenshot from Google Maps, the one marked with blue.

Route from Grottammare to Rome

Route from Grottammare to Rome

We crossed the mountains, took a quick tour of Tivoli by car and could not stop anywhere, apparently there was some sort of local holiday that day and the streets were packed with people. Since I was driving, I have no photos from there. We pushed on and reached Rome just in time for the evening traffic, which meant it took till after dark to reach the historic part of the city. Because at that time things like online maps viewable on phones and GPS navigation and being able to do instant searches for hotels on phones weren’t available, we had a most stressful time finding a hotel. They were all full or were asking astronomical prices. We finally ended up paying a taxi driver to lead us to a hotel by driving ahead of us. By the time we were in our rooms, it was past 9:30 pm, we had spent most of our day in our car and most of that in terrible city traffic. But we were grateful to finally have a bed to sleep in and a shower with hot (or somewhat hot) water.

Now you get to enjoy the photos. If you’d like to see the other posts from our trip, here are days 1, 2, 3 (part 1 and part 2) and 4; and here’s the overview.

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Day 4 of our Italian road trip took us from Chioggia to Ravenna, Rimini and Grottammare, which is where we stopped for the night. Get a cup of coffee and get comfortable, there are 71 photos for you to enjoy here.

If you’d like to see the other posts from our trip, here are days 1, 2 and 3 (part 1 and part 2); and here’s the overview.

Places

Italian road trip – Day 4 – Ravenna, Rimini and Grottammare

Gallery
Places

Some of the best pizza in Venice, Italy

I mentioned this place back in April, in my two-part article about Venice, but I wanted to tell you about it in more detail. It’s called Al Ponte di Rialto Self Service. It’s an unassuming name for an unassuming edifice, but don’t let its looks fool you. It’s some of the best pizza in Venice, Italy, and for us, some of the best pizza we’ve had in Italy. The prices are modest, which means you can eat yourself full without breaking your budget, then head out for a day of sightseeing.

On a related note, want to know what to avoid in Venice? Avoid pricy restaurants, particularly the one next to this cathedral, with a view over the laguna to one of the neighboring islands.

I’d tell you its name, but I forgot to write it down, and it’s also possible I’m blocking it. My wife and I got a mild case of food poisoning after eating a pizza there. Sure, we felt like kings sitting on a table overlooking the laguna, on a sunny and breezy late-winter day, but our stomachs told us otherwise afterward. And when you’re unfortunate enough to get food poisoning as you’re crossing the laguna on a boat, it can get mighty rough.

This was the pizza that made us sick.

So, keep this in mind while in Venice: avoid pricy restaurants with incredible views, and go for the unassuming places with clean kitchens and delicious food, like the Al Ponte di Rialto Self Service.

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Places

If you’re visiting the Duomo, in Florence, Italy, don’t miss Sergiobar, a little place next to the Campanile. It’s the perfect place to get a perfect hot chocolate, which is the perfect treat to warm you up after an early morning climb into the bell tower. 🙂

Sure, the place is a little touristy, but the proof is in the pudding, so to speak… Here’s a map of the place.

Want to see some photos from Florence?

The best hot chocolate I ever had

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Places

Italian road trip – Day 3 – Venice – Part 2

Part 1 of the Venice leg of our Italian road trip ended with our entrance into the Piazza di San Marco. That’s where this story begins.

As you can see on the map, the city of Venice isn’t made up of a single island, but multiple ones. This will prove interesting later on in the post, when you’ll see photos from the Campanile of the Piazza di San Marco (the Bell Tower). For now, let’s see what there is to see in the Piazza. As with the previous post, you can see the photos in the slideshow embedded below, or you can scroll down to see each photo and read my accompanying thoughts.

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Places

Italian road trip – Day 3 – Venice – Part 1

On the third day of our Italian road trip, we left Florence and started on our way to Venice.

This post contains 50 photos, so get ready to spend about 15-20 minutes here. You can see a slideshow below, or you can scroll down to see each photo alongside my thoughts.

First, we needed to find a place to stay for the night. We kept driving and driving, through Modena and on to Ferrara, but no decent hotel or pension presented itself to us. We veered off the highway, hoping to find a nice, quiet pension in the countryside, but we couldn’t see anything. It was getting darker, and we were getting desperate. We were tired after a long day of walking and driving, and we wanted to rest.

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Thoughts

Constitutional court strikes down Berlusconi's immunity

World Leaders Attend First Day Of UN General Assembly

Glad to see Berlusconi won’t have his way when it comes to the brazen immunity he granted himself a couple of years ago. Italy’s Constitutional Court threw out his immunity law as unconstitutional. This means he will now be subject to two ongoing trials and a probe into an alleged prostitution ring.

What can I say, Mr. Berlusconi… at some point all the stuff you’ve been doing has got to come back and bite you in the rear.

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Places

Italian road trip – Day 2 – Florence

Our Italian road trip took us from Pisa to Florence, where we arrived on the evening of February 18th, just as dusk set in. We navigated the Florence streets at night with some difficulty, but arrived at our lodging in due time, where we rested for the day ahead.

Map of Firenze

Here’s us descending the hills of Tuscany into Florence, on the main highway that connects it to Pisa.

See this video on Vimeo

A funny thing happened that evening. We’d been following our somewhat convoluted route through the city, when we reached a bridge we needed to cross but couldn’t. It’d been blocked — barricaded — by the city, for reasons unknown, since no work was being done on the road. We stopped to call for directions. On the other side of the barricades, a line of angry Italians was forming. Apparently the barricades had only been put up that day, and they weren’t happy about it.

One of them, a young, strong fellow in his 20s, had been building up some steam underneath his collar. With no thought of turning around and finding another route, he got out of his car and started to break the plastic ties that held the barricades together, bare-handed. These were thick ties — the same kind used to handcuff people when they’re arrested — yet he snapped them with relative ease. After breaking a few, he figured it was tedious, so he got a sharp hunting knife from his car and sliced through the rest of the ties, then threw the barricades aside and drove right through.

I’d gotten out of my car to have a better look at what he was doing, and stood there amazed. Seriously, it takes guts to have complete disregard for the authorities of a city. On the one hand, what he did was wrong, but on the other hand, he helped us and the many other drivers stuck there. We knew of no other route to get where we were going, and we’d have been lost if he hadn’t cleared the way. and after a short while, reached the place where we were staying — Villa Aurora — a picturesque antique villa perched on one of the Tuscan hills that surrounded the city.

The villa and its surroundings were so beautiful that in spite of my fatigue and the cold weather, I had to make time for a few nighttime photos, after which I slept like a log till early morning.

Tuscan courtyard, night

Interior courtyard at night

We got up with the dawn and after a hearty breakfast, drove into the city to visit. We parked in the subterranean lot behind the railway station, near the church of Santa Maria Novella, then walked through the city for several hours.

A couple of grand hotels

20 eccetto

We visited the Duomo while it was still early morning and the tourists weren’t around, then had the best hot chocolate ever at a place called SergioBar, right in the Piazza del Duomo.

Bell tower

Bronze doorway detail

Morning traffic

Il Duomo II

I highly recommend climbing to the top of either the Campanile or the Duomo, in the morning or in the late afternoon, when the sun casts long shadows on the city. The climb is long and exhausting, but you’ll be treated to some fantastic views of Florence.

Climbing the Campanile

Florence rooflines in early morning sunlight

Tuscan rooflines

Il Duomo

Il Duomo III

After that, we made our way to the Palazzo Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio.

Scooter city II

Huddle

Piazza della Signoria II

No Fakes, Thanks

Narrow slit of sky

Didn't I see this in a movie somewhere?

Old lady walking her pooch

We crossed the old bridge then climbed up to the Palazzo Pitti with its hilltop gardens and amazing views of Florence and the surrounding areas, then came back down and slowly made our way back across the Arno to the railway station and our car. Venice was next on our list, but we had to drive a good while till we got there and find a hotel to sleep for the night.

Palazzo Pitti

Hilltop gardens

Tuscan villa

Walled and barred

Where the road divides

Santa Maria Novella

After making our way out of the city, we took the highway toward Venice, then exited somewhere near Modena and made our way toward Ferrara on country roads. It was near Modena that we saw the Lamborghini factory — actually, passed right by it — but it didn’t occur to us till after the fact. That was unfortunate, it would have been nice to take a tour.

We found a small, cozy and very clean hotel on the outskirts of Ferrara and slept there for the night.

Dusk in Emilia Romagna

All the photos you see here and more can be found at larger sizes in the Firenze album in my photo catalog.

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Places

The Crystal Trio in Venice

The Crystal Trio are a Russian group from Siberia who play on special instruments made of glass: the verrophone, the glass harp, and the glass flute. The glass harp is the key instrument used in their performances, and it consists of a series of glasses arranged in rows; they vary in size and in the amount of distilled water present in each glass.

The members of the group are Igor Sklyarov, Vladimir Perminov and Vladimir Popras. We saw them in Venice, Italy, during one of their street performances in the weekend of the annual Venice Carnival. They perform classical pieces, which sound amazing when played on their glass instruments. I recorded a short segment from their street performance, which can be seen here. At the end of the clip, you can see my wife walk toward them. She bought one of their DVDs.

See this video on blip.tvVimeo or YouTube

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