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Rome – Day 2

Date: Tue 25th June
Temperature: warm/hot
Mood: relaxed
Highlight: Vatican City

To give ourselves a chance with our itinerary for the day, we set the alarm for 6:30am so we could be up and off at a reasonable hour. We were meeting Caitlin outside the Vatican Museum at 1:30pm and had learnt from yesterday that we needed to find lunch before our tour or face no food for 12 hours!

Probably due to being slightly more familiar with the streets and layout of Rome (who are we kidding!). We really had no major problems following our directions and finding points of interest along the way. We also retraced some old ground from the day before so as to spend more time at the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona which we enjoyed seeing without the added stress of being lost!

We made our way across to the Vatican and were stunned at the number of large tour groups and people jamming the streets surrounding the Vatican. Luckily, our guide Caitlin had prearranged a meeting place nearby and we gracefully glided past all the crowds under her expect guidance. Before long we were walking the Museums getting the highlights of particular items and a very good background on Michelangelo and his works to really set the scene for later when we visited the Sistine Chapel.

We really got a lot out of the works by Raphael and Michelangelo and finally we ended the tour visiting St Peters and were impressed by the way Bernini had architected the building so as not to be as imposing as its size really is.

We left the Vatican and headed for home with a quick pitstop for our first Gelato in 2 days! Definitely having withdrawal symptoms! Another late night dinner at a local Italian restaurant where we ordered a selection of yummy pasta dishes. We intended returning to the Trevi Fountain for some night photo’s, but too tired. That will have to wait until tomorrow night!

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Rome – Day 1

Date: Mon 24th June
Temperature: Pleasantly warm
Mood: Happy
Highlight: Coliseum & Forum

We enjoyed a lovely breakfast provided by the Hotel (we’d forgotten it was included, but very welcome as saved us having to spend time hunting down our own!).

As the Spanish steps were nearby, we decided to check them out straight after breakfast and then return to the Hotel to prepare for another big day of sightseeing.

We had an itinerary in hand provided by Travel by Design and a map, but with limited time as we had a pre-booked guide to take us through the Forum and Coliseum. Unfortunately neither of us can claim we have excellent navigational skills and sense of direction. Compounded by the poor map in hand and the complex layout of roads and long street names and Piazza’s, we spent the morning wandering around Rome trying to follow our Itinerary but failing dismally. It made Venice a walk in the Park in comparison!

We were relieved to actually make it on time to meet our guide Caitlin at Campidoglio and that was after asking for directions on more than one occasion!

What a pleasure to have our own private guide. We were completely absorbed in hearing the Ancient Roman history as we walked through the Forum and then enthralled by the stories around the Roman people’s Coliseum, literally transporting us back in time as we could visualise this great space in full action. Jenny as a Vestal Virgin watching on and Stephen as a Gladiator?

Back to reality! We’d missed lunch due to our sloppy navigating earlier in the day and we headed back in the direction of the Hotel with a little sightseeing on the way. As has been typical, we finally ended up eating at around 9:00pm (Still early by Italian standards) and finally crashed at 11:00pm. Well one us did. We will have to get up earlier if we think we can attempt to give justice to our itinerary which will also include another tour with Caitlin, this time to the Vatican.

(P.S Caitlin sends her regards to the people at Travel by Design!)

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Venice – Day 2

Date: Sun 23rd June
Temperature: Hot
Mood: Enchanted
Highlight: Eating Pizza whilst sitting on the banks of the Grand Canal

With our bedroom windows left open, we awoke to the first Gondola’s making their way along the canals outside our window.

A quick shower to freshen up and we were on our way. We had received an email earlier from Travel by Design and needed to do a quick rescheduling of the day’s activities.

To combat queues and the like we tackled the Doge’s Palace first, followed by the Basilica, after which we were on a slow burn out due to the lack of breakfast and the heat. We took off for the original scheduled breakfast stop, but were disappointed with the views as the church opposite was undergoing renovations, with so many other great views to be had we went in search for lunch. We ended up with takeaway Pizza which we ate whilst enjoying the hustle and bustle of activity around the Grand Canal.

It was now time for some more walking to take in more of Venice and her amazing intricacies of narrow streets and criss-crossing canals and small pedestrian bridges. In just the nick of time, we found the popular Venetian Gelateria il Doge for a quick lick before making our way through the streets all the way back to the railway station.

Before long we were on one of Trenitalia’s fast trains, the Frecciargento, to Rome. Scheduled arrival, around 8:20pm. Luckily these trains come with Internet WiFi so we can catch up on our blogging!

On arrival into Rome, using just a map handed to us from our gypsy friend Fabian, we loaded ourselves up with our backpacks (which are starting to weigh a lot more than when we set off a few months ago!) and headed off in search of our accommodation. Couldn’t have been easier and the traffic was sedate (probably due to it being a Sunday evening). Checked in to a lovely a hotel recommended by a work colleague (no disappointments) and had the staff arrange a booking at a nearby Pizzeria. On the way back from dinner, we noted a few Gelateria’s if needed in future!

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Venice – Day 1

Date: Sat 22nd June
Temperature: Hot
Mood: fascination
Highlight: Blown away by Venice

After sharing our final breakfast with our ‘gypsie’ friends and bidding them farewell and safe travels we headed back to Florence to return our sporty Alpha Romeo hire car. This ‘simple’ drive was causing much angst and hours were spent examining the map to find the best route. We managed to fill up the car with diesel after sitting at the petrol station searching for the lever to flip the fuel cap – such high tech mod cons are not necessary in Italy, you just have to release it from the outside! Actually getting the petrol out of the pump was the next quandary, however after a bit of time, all was sorted. The drive into Florence did not cause us too great a problem and we arrived at the train station to catch the train to Venice with 30 minutes to spare.

Arriving in Venice was quite overwhelming and vey hot! After queuing for 15min to get a map of Venice at the tourist information office, we were told it would cost us 3€ and wouldn’t include the transport routes, so we went next door and purchased a map and sightseeing book for €5! Our Italian tourist information experiences haven’t been that wonderful.

We bordered a ferry bound for San Marco to experience a ride up the Grand Canal,which resulted in a squishy, slow sojourn up the Canal. After disembarking, we made our way through the narrow winding streets and over bridges, our eyes agog at the beautiful Murano glass shops, the masks, the leather, the designer brands. We walked through San Marco Piazza, looked at the basilica (from the outside) and then headed off to find our accommodation, which was next door to the Scala Contarini del Bovolo (unfortunately this building is now closed to the public). We were shown to our room by a lovey older lady, We think she has transformed her family home into a guest house, keeping some of the rooms as her private quarters. We were greeted by a splendidly authentic Italian decorated bedroom, complete with all the stuff from years gone by, but more exciting was the fact that our room was on a canal, only one floor up, so we could each look out windows at the passing traffic below. We also had the luxury of a private bathroom, but we had to navigate from one end of the floor to the other to get to it!

By the time we had checked in and hit the street, all tourist sites were then closed, so we set off to simply stroll the streets aimlessly and enjoy all that there was to offer with the views, the narrow streets, the squares, bridges, all very fascinating! Whilst we did get lost on a few occasions, the maps are useful and there is good signage directing you to the main areas that do help a lot.

We ended up with a very late diner of pasta (possibly due to all the Gelato’s consumed). Then back to our accommodation and dropping into bed being lulled off to sleep with the gentle lapping sounds of water from below as boats quietly moved about at this late hour.

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Tuscany – Day 5

Date: Fri 21st June
Temperature: Pleasantly warm
Mood: Happy
Highlight: Susan’s Birthday

This is our last day of relaxation and of course its a special day for the celebration of a very big milestone in Sue’s life before we hit the last stage of our European adventure! It has been pure indulgence having these last few days to relax and enjoy the company of good friends in Tuscany. It will be hard to get back into the full-on travel and sightseeing mode.

Today was Sue’s day, as long as it included a Gelato, which it did. So we all waited patiently for her to emerge from her extra long sleep in before breakfasting (Some of us were getting a little worried that we would miss breakfast altogether!).

After a leisurely breakfast and relaxing by the pool (you may see a pattern occurring here). It was time to venture out to another local village called Montelupo for some afternoon Gelato and a Cappuccino and some pastries and… (We’re too embarrassed to go on, particularly when we constantly get ribbed by the old man that we will be up for excess luggage on our return trip!)

On our return it was time to turn the Birthday celebrations up a notch with pre dinner (happy hour) drinks and nibbles before dining alfresco style and finishing off with a pre ordered Tiramisu Birthday cake. Luckily we dined at the Villa’s Restaurant so we could all waddle back to our Villa’s to recover.

A great day was enjoyed by all.

Happy Birthday Sue!

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Under the Tuscan Moon!

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