A Travellerspoint blog

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Day 4-Rome-Sienna-Florence

sunny 28 °C

JOHN’S BLOG - Better late than never:

Rome, wow! More than I expected. I figured a few ruins but not everywhere. Narrow streets and big fill them up block after block of buildings everywhere. Not a house to be seen….apartment living for everyone. Not my style. Parking for small cars and bikes at a premium, not for my cube van …ha, ha

The ruins spectular, how they could build that 2000 years ago is beyond me. The doors to some of their buildings that are in operation here now are so large and heavy that it really is mind blowing. The domes of the buildings are quite awesome.

DAY 4 - May 24 - Rome to Sienna to Florence

Actually, I note that I left you at the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona (a square with a fountain and statute, of course, and the artists like to show and sell their art) so here is a picture of a guitarist with a most unique guitar!!

Another great pic…here is our great looking Italian guide, Marco and my new Melbourne friends, Jane and Beatrice. We did the tourist thing and tossed a coin in the fountain for good luck, naturally!

We had a great Italian outdoor dinner with a very talented host who did some wonderful Italian singing and then some bad Elvis imitation with fake side burns. Quite entertaining really!


So now I am up to Day 4.…On the road to Sienna. Good news for lots of us…our tour director has bought the proper technology and we now have wi-fi available to us on the bus whenever we travel…woohoo…now we don’t have to pay the hotel rates which can be pretty expensive…3 euros for 30 minutes. Remember the Euro is approximately 1.39 to the Canadian Dollar. Insight Vacations have definitely done up the tour right…everything is 1st class so far.

Countryside changing a lot and getting very hilly. Into Sienna, well not actually into as only locals and people who work there are allowed to bring their small vehicles and scooters in. So, we walk in……now if any of you have read the book…Pillars of the Earth………..with a little imagination we totally walked into that book. Medieval History…wow..quite unbelievable, the streets, the square, the church, the stone! Just needed some horses and carts … medieval Italy at its best.


The opera house at the top is magnificent…I think I got a decent picture which does it justice. Stunning!


Off to Florence after our visit to Sienna. In Florence, we start out with a tour of the Acadeny Gallery to See Michelangelo’s original statute of David (the perfect man). Well, just so you know, he’s not perfect…his hands and feet and head are not in proportion with his body…but I guess Michel decided that they needed to be larger to put the giant statute into perspective when you looked up at it…artists!! Over to Florence’s cathedral……another wow….I thought I had seen some big churches in my time but no way…these churches are enormous and took centuries to build!!


Then to hotel (another beaut). Dinner with our travel group at hotel. NH FIRENZE LINK

Posted by Bada Bing 23:37 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Day 5 - Florence and San Gimignano

sunny 28 °C

DAY 5- Florence and San Gimignano

Up and off to the leather store, yes, shopping! A short demo and talk by one of Peruzzi’s employees and then shop, shop, shop. We all did quite well in the huge leather store and John and I are the proud owners of some great Peruzzi leather products. John, of course, was interested in some old things along with a very expensive thing…….a leather golf bag.


Time to wander some Florence streets and visit Ponte Vecchio. This bridge was built in 1300 and now is only a foot bridge with shops on it. It spans the River Arno. Yes, we heard that the river got its name cause there are no fish….I know, bad joke!!!


Afternoon was reserved for a visit to San Gimignano (what a mouthful) but what an amazing 13th century medieval town built on the top of a famous hilltop in Tuscany. These pictures do some justice but being here is the best. All those countrysides from Italy that you see in the movies are real…trust me! This country is amazing….oh and did I mention HOT…today was another scorcher! Loving every minute of it!


Had one of the best gelato’s ever (well, so far) at the square in the maze…yes, the whole place is a maze but all roads lead to the center, sooner or later…so we found out!

JOHN’S NOTES: Full walls around the city to keep out their enemies with large gates to enter and exit. I can’t believe that people are still living in the same buildings today! San Gimignano is nicknamed the medieval Manhattan of Italy. It has these wonderful narrow streets, 3 or 4 story high buildings that go on and on. I should point out that gas is equivalent to $2.12 Canadian for regular. Biera (beer) is between $2 and $5 Euros.

BACK TO ME: We opted out of a dinner in Tuscany tonight for steak and wine so that we can walk down by the river and enjoy our own evening…the last few days have been hectic and we have walked up and down and up and down and it would be interesting to have had a pedometer on. We had a simple dinner watched a very busy runabout working very very efficiently…buses, scooters, motorbikes, smart cars, small cars, regular cars…no trucks, couple utes….ha, ha!

Posted by Bada Bing 02:27 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Florence, Pisa, Lugano

overcast 25 °C

Day 6 Florence to Pisa to Lugano to Italian Lakes (Baveno)


Left Florence this morning. Finally got to see more actual houses standing by themselves on acreages. Barley fields all headed out but not ripe. The greenery is very lush, high hills all around the city-kinda reminds me of Vegas (in the valley). We are supposed to be travelling west according to map. My compass says the opposite maybe it don’t work too good on the bus, too much metal. Here you don’t get out of the city onto a highway, it’s building and people all around. Wow, I just finished writing that and look..open fields, reminds me of home….hay bales and all. Corn Fields 2’ tall. Donna print this like I say it…Dean, Charlie and Rachel will understand. I’m doing notes as we travel, it’s better this way! I finally saw some backhoes working in Rome..all the digging was done by archaeologists….Jerry couldn’t make a living here.

Just left Leaning Tower of Pisa. Good example of engineering gone bad, but still lasting 950 years. Another monster church made of marble. All the marble in this area is from the Cara (sp) mountains which we just drove by. The marble from here was also sent to Rome starting in 500BC…hard to imagine. Near the top of these mountains is white stuff, not snow, but marble. Just passing the large buildings with large boulders of rock and marble in compounds where they are cutting them up for shipment. They are double tire single axle trucks with triple axle single tire trailers..sure different than back home.


This is the bottom end of the Alps..toll roads all over Italy!! All big trucks on the highways are cab over or snub nose, probably for overall length, I would think.

If this blog seems a little mixed up…welcome to my world through my eyes and ears…..JOHN signing off…………………

DONNA`S BLOG…..this one will make more sense!!

Up to Lugano, Switzerland…very pretty, amazing views of Lugano as we rounded the corner. Lots of up and down streets.


Final leg of the day, we end up at Lake Maggiore which is in the Italian Lakes District. What a beautiful
stunning view and guess what, we had a lake view…here’s a picture from our balcony! We are staying at one of the Zaccheria hotels (only 5 here) and it is as elegant as any of the Las Vegas hotels on a slightly smaller basis. Definitely a 4-5 star. Olympic sized indoor swimming pool plus outdoor pool.


Posted by Bada Bing 04:00 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Verona and Venice

sunny 27 °C

Firstly, I will explain that in northern Italy I was having a harder time getting an internet connection and the time to do it. With the mountainous terrain, the wi-fi on the bus was not good and the hotel in Venice had an archaic system which I couldn’t connect to so I will try to get caught up soon. I have arrived at a hotel with free FAST WI FI so I am now taking advantage of it...

Saturday, date unknown…….wait, I will look it up….I guess it was May 28th. When on a tour, dates mean nothing…only times, wake up times, suitcase out times, pee times, food times…be on time!!!

So, it was a beautiful sunny morning, a great day for another long bus ride. We are stopping in Milan and Verona. On a bus tour, everyone rotates seats so that all get good views and so that the same people cannot monopolize the front seats. Well, this is fairly interesting as it appears we have a “MOLE”. Yes, I do believe someone is intentionally switching up their seats and therefore, it has caused quite a bit of “I think you are in my seat…….but it doesn’t really matter”. All in all, it has been quite entertaining as you know how people can be. We just sit there, watch and chuckle with our “inside voices”.

Milan was beautiful with the largest Gothic style Cathedral in Italy and also is renown for LaScala Opera House which on the outside is not fancy but fantastic on the inside.


We were then off to Verona where we saw Romeo and Juliet’s balcony and another amphitheatre like the Coliseum which we were not able to enter as there were having an awards night that evening and there were rehearsals of the band, etc. going on.

On to Venice where we arrived in time for our gondola ride through the waterways and then to our hotel where we found a very interesting antique hotel. John said to tell you that he has never had such clean feet as on this trip as every hotel has a foot bath…………HA, HA…Bidets!! We hopped another boat and arrived at St. Mark’s square for a little refreshment and entertainment with a live orchestra. Very entertaining. In st. Mark’s Square, you not only pay dearly for a refreshment but you also pay a service charge for sitting and listening to the music.



Posted by Bada Bing 09:41 Archived in Italy Comments (0)


sunny 29 °C

Venice, a city built on posts, manmade islands and waterways. Very weird! Every job that requires a vehicle is done here by boat from delivering our suitcases to garbage disposal to laundry service. There are over 450 bridges in this maze of a city. We took the tour of St.Mark’s square and surrounding area and then had time to explore on our own. We found the famous Rialto bridge and the Bridge of Sighs and followed the maze getting only slightly lost a few times. But seems that all mazes lead back to the square eventually.

We went up the Bell Tower and had a great view of Venice from above.


Evening was a tour to the island of Borrano (know for its handmade lace) and colourful houses. It was absolutely a photographers paradise. It took at least 45 minutes by boat to get to the island and we were not disappointed. On the way, we learned more about Venice and how it is slowly sinking, however, with Operation Moses, Venice is slowly building a water management facility much like Amersterdam to try and balance out the water levels in Venice. Our tour guide said it is totally not uncommon to have to walk through water in St. Mark's square during high tides.


Toilets in italy..............some have seats, many don't, hotels also do. Paper is the thickness of a Canadian paper towel (a soft one). Oh, and most toilets are pay toilets, either someone taking your money (anywhere from 50 E to 1.50 E) or a turnstile to the toilets. Yep, you pay to drink and you pay to pee it out....double!!

Posted by Bada Bing 10:08 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

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