Venice Revisited

 

italy-austria border
By the border of Italy and Austria at dawn.

Visiting any city in Italy means going the scenic route. No matter how many hours that route would be, 5, 7 or 9, it’s a surefire beautiful and awesome opportunity to take drive by shots. It means even waking up as early as 5 in the morning while on board the night train to catch a glimpse of dawn is so worth it.

It has been six years ago since I last set foot on Venice. Then and there I have loved it and knew that coming back would be a very welcome option. Despite the fact that I would walk for hours wouldn’t deter me to explore this floating city…and, it’s exercise, too! Going up on the bridges, up and down, getting lost here and there would surely make one lose calories! Except, of course, if one eats pizza the whole time! ^_^ Here are some of the many beautiful things we saw in Venice, probably you’ll get some tips when you go for a vacation.

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Drive by, an island seen from the train.

We got to the main Venice island shortly after 8 in the morning, yes, we took the night train which left Vienna close to 9 o’clock the previous night. We got to sleep on the train’s beds! :D

We soaked in the smell of this Italian city, the sun barely shining yet, the scenery that welcomes tourists getting ready for a lot of walking. Of course, I sat, wonder and do what I love most, take photos of whatever I could. This trip was to actually rendezvous with H’s highschool friend whom he had not seen since…graduation.

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Vaporeto passing by…

 The city of bridges is still as pretty as I remember, probably much colorful this time! It was still spring so the cold and blue skies were a perfect tandem to enjoy the long walks. The shade provided by the colorful buildings are a refuge when the sun gets a bit too hot. Or, one can actually cool down with a cone or cup of gelato that every Italian city offers on every corner! You just have to pick the best one! Yes, no matter what time of the day, a gelato is perfect to make you feel better! ;)

gelatopannacotta
Gelato Panna cotta

Our quest started then and there, conquering bridges, stone and wood…we went left then right, between stores to open plazas . We’ve met people going back, going ahead, selling stuff, performing with their instruments or simply singing their hearts out.

bridge, city of bridges
Wooden bridge
venice bridge
Stone bridge

While I boast of having a good memory, I seem to not remember seeing love locks on any bridge 6 years prior. This time though, the Ponte dell’ Academia have a number of them already. It would be interesting to know how this would fare, and here’s hoping it won’t fall from all the weight accumulated  by the locks. Remind me which city did such happen? Paris?

love locks
Love locks at Ponte dell’ Academia

Brunch was toast, pizza and a handful more italian delicacies under the Campanile at Piazza San Marco (featured on my food blog). The danger of dining al fresco is obviously being bombarded by pigeon droppings, good thing we never got any. :D There was a huge crowd (like always) at the plaza, probably because there was a mass being held at St. Mark’s Basilica (to which the bell tower belongs to).

Campanile
Campanile

Venetian experience won’t be complete without riding a gondola, despite it being a bit expensive than the usual fare. (That’s 80€ for half an hour). There are of course, water taxis, waterbuses or vaporettos you can take  to go around Venice. It would cost 7€ one-way for an adult and the same amount for children on a roundtrip, the tickets are valid 1 hour after validation. Note also that kids under 6 are free.

gondola
Gondola’s front tip
gondoleros, venice
Gondoleros at the Grand Canal

The highlight, probably, of every walking visitor in Venice is the Ponte di Rialto. It is the oldest bridge across the Grand canal, one of only four in the said canal. While there are a lot of shops on the bridge itself, both sides are open for people to walk about, gawk at and probably spend many hours wondering what if they actually find true love then and there. Uuugggghhh, sorry just got carried away.

rialto bridge
Rialto bridge

The bridge is truly a busy site…and sight. Like in any other italian city, there are those selling imitation bags and whatnots. They’d go scrambling when the Carabinieri comes by. It’s amusing to watch. :D

While there, don’t forget to grab some murano beads, masks (they’re really neat) and what other souvenirs the colorful City of Waters offer its consumers.

tables out
Tables out, pizza time!

So finding some quiet streets and a good place to eat is not hard to do in Venice. Fresh produce, like below, is abundant and that goes well with your pasta and wine! I’m not sure what the rule of thumb is when dining in Venice but I suggest to try the restaurants  far from the Grand Canal as the ones there might cost much higher. (It must be the view!)

seafood
Fresh catch

Tired yet? Nah, with a beautiful backdrop of the sun, you can forget how far you’ve walked for 10 hours and just go on. And I haven’t started about the night landscape yet! :) I would do that soon along with the musicians I’ve recorded and other details I could share.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate that Venice is so worth being listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon. Its colorful history and buildings will make you fall in love and wanting to come back all-over again, no matter if it’s summer, spring or fall.

venice, water transport
Dusk

Rome Alone

 

Five hours in the Eternal City is never enough to cover and discover all that this enchanting comune has to offer. That’s what I had though when hubby and I went “roaming alone in Rome” for some me-time each with the challenge of not taking a taxi but just the metro trains. :D I was hesitant at first but, I thought it would be good for me since I walk slowly, I could drink in the culture, sights, atmosphere and scenery more and escape the eye rolls I get from the annoyance I seem to bring hubby whenever I get left behind. ^_^

Five hours….considering my being slow, I could have seen more, taken photos of the city more but, in a nutshell, this is a story of what I did and saw in Rome…alone. Well, with a good-old map actually and my ever-reliable 7d.

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Sunny view of the Colosseo

Sun high-up (it was 5:30PM!), kissing my skin as it pleased, people – tourists and locals alike walking here and there…vendors, gladiator-clad men, each busy with their routine abound. Hubby and I separated at the metro train station Colosseo – most probably named after the  building just across – the largest ampitheatre the world has known. Albeit a famous tourism spot nowadays, the Colosseo or Coliseum still stands proud today, 1933 years after its completion and even marking its way to a spot in the New Seven Wonders of the World list.

A few steps from the Colosseum is another historical monument, the arch of Constantine. For some unknown reasons, I cannot find a decent shot of it from my archives. I think they were doing some renovations to it as on many other buildings that time. The above photo though shows it peeking a bit…(I’m sure hubby took a photo of this when we went back together but that would be in another post).

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tourists dwarfed by the Colosseo

Not being a sun-lover, I went around the elliptical structure immediately, stopping in middle-awe (where there’s shadow of course) and just savoring all the history and magnificence it imposes. Had hubby been there, we were sure to have gotten in but, I was hesitant to go in alone so I got back to the train station instead. Rome’s train stations are relatively clean…well, most that I’ve been to and as expected, the trains themselves are crowded.

Did spoke with an American family while on board…they’re from Detroit and spending a whole week in Rome, then was there last day. What struck me would be the sticker warning signs the train doors have. Quite morbid for my taste. :D

escalator
going down to the trains

So I got off at the metro station Ottaviano, one of the nearest station that leads to Vatican City. Via Ottaviano (street) is lined up with shops, trattorias, pizzerias and of course residential houses. I was tempted to just shop than actually go to my destination – St. Peter’s Square. Hubby and I went there early in the morning that day but, it was too warm and humid I didn’t really enjoy it so much, I was seeking shelter from the shadows of the surrounding buildings at the plaza.

It was a bit before 7 then so it has cooled down a bit. It was also at this time when I saw the time-traveller musician. (Had you been to my music and food blog you’d know him). I walked the street parallel to via Ottaviano, the wall of the Vatican city on the right and a handful of souvenir shops on the left.

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not sure which street :D

I entered the plaza/square via the colonnades – the right side and this time, there aren’t as much tourists, no sun to annoy me but, also no hubby to go inside with and see the beauty of the Sistine chapel ceiling, nor the Pieta and not even the Vatican Library. Even not being catholics, seeing these historical pieces were on our bucket list. Sad to say, we run out of time the following days and never got to fulfill this. Rome being an hour away from Vienna by plane is easy to revisit and I’d definitely cross these out  from the bucket list when I get back. ^_^

At the square, the Tuscan colonnades were towering over the crowd of people as it was designed like to embrace them – symbolically back into the church. It is said to be one of Italian architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s most innovative design.

obelisk and fountain
St. Peter’s square – Colonnade, Obelisk and Maderno’s fountain

I walked around the square a bit more, shot this and that corner and went back the same route I had earlier. This time, I did some shopping. Bought some chocolates – Italian kisses, Baci, and a handful more sweets, some souvenirs and a few pieces from my favorite design house, Desigual.

I spent a considerable amount of time gawking at stuff there, teehee…when I finally got hungry and when my phone battery was almost dead, I went to the nearest restaurant I saw…and that’s a review shared on my food blog. ^_^ Long story told, I had one of Rome’s more known dish, pasta alla gricia made special with the experience of meeting a polyglot.

shops
Saldi…calling me to shop. :) I obliged

When dusk blanketed the city, I headed for the Pantheon. I didn’t follow the map this time but the advise of the above-mentioned polyglot. I took the scenic, longer bus route. I hopped off at Lagro Argentina and went the wrong way so I had to ask for directions a lot of times. ^_^

The Eternal city lives well to its name, the night streets so picturesque, I think it took me longer than I should reaching the spot where hubby and I would rendezvous because I stop by every corner to click my camera.

Still very much alive at 9 in the evening, my perception of Rome as a very busy city all transpired there.

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streets at night

I arrived at Piazza della Rotonda in one piece. ^_^ Rome’s very lively culture, the Italians’ happy disposition and free-spirited nature can all be seen in here. I spent some minutes listening to Italian music played on guitar at the middle of the plaza….I was waiting for hubby but, I was too surprised when I saw him there held (actually dragged) by a pantomime…Had I not been so quick, he would have probably been taken away by a chinese lady! ^_^ The night went on with some more walking, night shots, wine, pasta and more walking. This trip may not be one of those cheap late holidays we booked in a hurry…we definitely spent more but it’s all worth it! Sometimes opting for the budget offer is a good idea, but spending a bit more, that’s both time and money, in a city as Rome, is definitely one to try!

pantheonplaza
Piazza della Rotonda and Pantheon

 

Rooms on a Budget Through Hotel Discount Sites

 

Shopping is always fun when you are getting things at a bargain.  The same is true when shopping for hotel accommodations for your vacation.  There are budget rooms and suites available in many hotel discount sites online.  All you need to do is to check these websites at some point and find wonderful deals for your next vacation.  But first, you have to choose your discount sites carefully.  There are a lot of scams online and you do not want to be the next willing prey.  Take a look at the following factors when you evaluate the deal website:

bologna, italy
wandering in bologna

Reliability.  How good a deal really is can only be proven when you avail of it.  Most of the people who are conned into making online purchases find out too late that their money is gone and the product they got is no good.  You want to make sure that the travel website that you are getting your hotel deals from will truly deliver.  Check out its reputation and read through the customer testimonials on the website itself or in other review websites as well.

Timing.  You have to be quick to take advantage of these hotel deals.  Some of them are offered within a short promotional period only.  This is why it is best if you are subscribed to receive notifications for certain deals in your chosen destinations.  It is also a good idea to have a tentative travel date and some other travel preferences in mind.  This will allow you to make a quick decision when the right travel deal comes along.  Have a list of your “requirements” in a hotel room:  number of beds, available amenities, access to business facilities, guided tour availability, and airport transfers among others.

Security.  Make sure that your personal and financial details are safe at all times.  You want an assurance that your data will not be exposed to other entities without your consent.  Even if it’s just for regular promotional emails, you do not want the travel website to be giving out your email address to their partner establishments.  Make sure too that you get your proof of payment every time you transact in any travel website to purchase your hotel deals.

hotel novotel fiera
Novotel Bologna Fiera

Beaches a Lignano

That we live far from the sea is something I often complain about and compare to my days growing up. We would often hit the beach when summer comes and we’d spend a day getting all sun-burned, eating what the grown ups brought with them or grilled by the coals provided at the rented nipa huts.  A day at the sea is something we always look forward to.

It was a fun time for the kids to visit the shores….not the white sand beaches I got used to but hey, it’s still sand! :)

Lignano Plaza at Night

You’ll recognize the top photo as part of this blog’s header. This shot has been a favorite from our Lignano trip. It was around 8pm but as usual, the summer dusk is a perfect blue.


A palm tree is characteristic of the plaza along with other trees I’m not familiar with. What’s charming in this Italian comune is because of the breeze you’ll know that the sea is very near but because they’ve properly developed it, you wouldn’t know how far it is from where you’re standing.

The Lignano plaza is a busy, noisy, full-of-vendor open space…souvenir shops, street paintings, trinkets and klumperts can be found. There’s a Karaoke in the middle when we passed by. Nope, I didn’t sing, I only sing at home never in such a public place. ^_^