North America, Europe · 18 Days · 117 Moments · April 2018

Jen & Paul’s Trip to Italy


27 April 2018

🇮🇹 This is our Italy Journi. Please scroll to the very bottom to start at the beginning.

22 April 2018

Quick note: people in Rome are friendly. Locals and servers alike. I’ve had interactions with both and always been greeted warmly. Also, there are no rules with cars. Or rather there is 1 rule: whoever is more confident gets the right of way. Pedestrians or cars who hesitate , do not cross. It’s basically a society of jaywalkers and sidewalk cyclists. Toilets: they almost deserve their own post; there are rarely toilet seats. Often no toilet paper, and the flush will work 75% of the time so hope for the best. Not a fan of European bathrooms. We also have a very different coffee culture. It’s tough to find a coffee to go where you can get a decent size (larger than a thimble) and get a dash of milk in your cup. And if they have to go cups, they only have lids 50% of the time. We discovered our coffee dependency. 😥😊
Roman Forum and Palatine Hill today. It was included as part of the Coliseum ticket entry which is valid for 2 days. After feeling a little ripped off at the Coliseum, the forum and hill more than make up for it. The ticket value is really all about these sites and with a 2-day validity, you can really take your time, plan a picnic and just take it all in. Today is our last day so we didn’t plan for that, but maybe next time. ❤️
After dinner we bumped into this lovely mother & daughter from Australia, who we’d met the night before on our ghost tour. What a fun way to spend our 2nd last night in Rome. We stayed out until closing. 😊🍷

21 April 2018

Deciding what sights to see... everything was preplanned, but we’re tired and sore and the heat is intense. Sightseeing might have to take 2nd priority to just enjoying the city and food.
At Brewdog. Had to get out of that sun!! I might have heat stroke 😵 It’s cool in here (literally). And look... Paul is taking over the board! (2nd photo, bottom row). We had some interesting nachos, Cacio e Pepe style (pecorino cheese and black pepper) along with two dipping sauces: Mayo with black pepper and a sweet creamy mustard.
More photos of the Colosseum. Notes: we’d read that it was supposed to be free on Rome’s birthday, along with all other museums, however it was not. It was €12 each to get in and that gets you to the ground floor (not the lower or the upper levels - those require a guided tour). The ground floor is a semi circle of the Colosseum. Not the best value... thankfully we have access to the Roman forum through the same ticket, so we’ll check that out. There are vendors everywhere outside of the colosseum trying to sell you tickets to skip the line, however there was no line. We entered within 5 min.
This place looks O.K. I guess.
Caesar’s Forum and other surrounding sights, as we head to the Colosseum. I feel really bad for the horses in this heat (photo 5).
The tomb of painter, Raphael. Located in the Pantheon.
At the Pantheon. Waiting for the sunlight to illuminate the doorway at noon. (An annual event on April 21). It’s late... Supposedly due to daylight savings.
Inside the Pantheon, as we watch the sun shine through the oculus, toward the entrance.
A quick view from our apartment window on Saturday morning.
Wonderful dinner at Old Bear.
Draft - heading back after the Vatican, passing by Castel Sant’Angelo.
After the Vatican, a quick drink and snack at BE.RE.
Final Vatican.
More Vatican.
More Vatican.
Wandering through the Vatican museum.

20 April 2018

Laocoön and His Sons, at the Vatican Museum. I’ve always loved this sculpture and never imagined I’d see it in person.
Our apartment in Rome. Great location and stunning apartment! Love the windows!! The apartment is huge and very comfortable. If you’re at one end of the apartment, you can’t hear the other calling from the other end. It’s so big! Minor complaint: the faucets all leaked a little and the water pressure was not great. But hey... it’s Rome and we had a beautiful space in the center of everything.
Arriving in Rome... frustrating and chaotic. The train was smooth but once we arrived, there were no signs of where to go to access the city center. We knew we needed a bus but there was no where to buy tickets and we didn’t realize that they couldn’t be bought on the bus. Our bus came and we tried to board, but the driver didn’t speak English and refused to help us. We had no signal (despite the local sims and plenty of data) so we couldn’t call a cab, or get clear walking directions. When we finally got a signal, the walking directions were 40 min long. Our AirBnB hosts was not replying and we felt stranded. We finally looked up how to find bus tickets and we tried a tobacco shop. Success!! Back to the bus stop, AirBnB responded and we finally made it (an hour behind schedule).
Wandering around Bologna. And another shot of the 2 towers (Le due torri). Yesterday we climbed Torre degli Asinelli.
Back at La Vecchia Malga for lunch! And we bought a bottle of that delicious balsamic vinegar reduction. Yum!

19 April 2018

Our first night we couldn’t do much other than get a late dinner and drinks, so we went to the Rome location of Baladin Brewing. We had, surprisingly, some of the best burgers we’ve ever had.
On route to Rome from Bologna. The scenery is just stunning along the countryside. My photos won’t do it justice.
One thing I adore about Bologna is the Porticos. Everywhere you go you walk through them, giving you shelter from the rain and the sun. Love it.
Laundry day #2... in Bologna.
Late night drinks at L’Ortica. We sat on an interesting patio in a Portico, with a view of a cute dog.
Hard to see but they are showing Saturday Night Fever on the side of a building and you can hear it from the patio of a bar.
A quick drink and snack at Baladin Bologna, a cute little bar inside that same “food court”.
Saw this little sweetheart in a food court type place. So adorable!
The top of the tower! We made it!
Le due Torri. We climbed Torre degli Asinelli (the taller one). It took about 10 min to climb but felt like a lot longer!! It was easier than the tower in Belgium due to the landings every few floors and railings to hold on the way up and down. The timed entry was also a good idea, as it prevents people trying to go both ways on the stairs. It was a good climb with spectacular views at the top.
Afternoon drink at Birroteca Lupulus. In Bologna. Cheap drinks, cash only. Enjoying a Belgian triple and whatever Paul is drinking. 😉

18 April 2018

Bologna -1st impressions: Hundreds of university students everywhere, which seems to keep prices down and the food is really good. However we are getting hounded by pan handlers at nearly every turn. When a local turns them down, it’s all good. When we do, they argue and pressure. It’s like they assume we’re just made of money because we’re tourists. They have no idea of the time we spent saving to be able to afford this trip. When they give me a hard time I bring up the exchange rate. Really liking everything else about this city; it’s very art and literature-focused.
La Vecchia Malga for lunch. We thought we’d have a cheese and meat plate each and then split a salad. The salad was wishful thinking.... so much food! We shared the platters Italico & Trentino (see the last photo for reference). I was disappointed with the wine at first (a little sour) but it worked well with the food. The only complaint was the aggressive pan handlers working the terrace. They wouldn’t take “no” for an answer until I started arguing the Canadian exchange rate. Btw: the couple next to us were very nice.

17 April 2018

We are back for a post-dinner drink. Jimi Hendrix live was playing on the set this time. At around 11: 30 the bartender said she was closing up. We paid and asked how much time. “About 5 min” was what we agreed on. At 4 min in, the door burst open with a gang of her friends demanding that they “party all night”. They cranked the volume to 11 and all started laughing and dancing and pouring themselves drinks. We considered briefly staying for 1 more, but we have to be up at 7am, so we decided to be sensible 🙄 Other notes: there was another patron there who didn’t speak Italian (maybe German), but they both spoke broken English. They seemed to be getting along well and when she announced she was closing he said “what about me?” She implied that he didn’t have to leave, but moments later, all of her friends burst in and totally busted up her “date”. It kinda sucks to be 20 something and running a cool bar where all of your friends crash your hookup and keep you from closing.
Our last dinner in Venice... we are at Vino Vino. Food prices are reasonable but the wine is a little pricey. The atmosphere is gorgeous, however. It’s also nice that they immediately assumed we were French tourists (thankfully not American!). Our waiter spoke French very well.
A view from the Rialto Bridge, just before sunset.
Stopped a drink at this cool little bar called L’Alba Osteria. They’re playing 60’s Elvis on the TV, there’s graffiti all over the walls and the place has about 6 seats around the bar. It’s a really cool little place. Edit: this short little old man came in and pushed his bag next to me on the bench with some friendly Italian comments and smiles, and went into the washroom. He then came out and grabbed a glass of wine and sidled up next to me. Apparently this is his local and I’m in his spot. He decided we should share :) He was so funny and friendly and the bar tender kept telling him to stop crowding me and that we didn’t understand what he was saying. I reassured her that it was fine and she kept apologizing and letting us know that he thought we could understand him. He said that he spoke all of languages of the world. 😉 He was done in about 10 min and said his greetings to all in the bar and left for home. It was actually really cute.
Bad news!! We just realized we were a day off. We thought we still had another day in Venice but we leave tomorrow 😥
Stopped for a Spritz on a terrace, enjoying a gorgeous view of the Grand Canal. The weather is beautiful. ☀️ Spritz: a Venetian cocktail of Prosecco, Aperol, soda water, and garnished with a 1/4 orange slice and a large green olive. It’s very refreshing.
More wandering and exploring. Some areas are literally crammed with tourists.
Snacks and tasting day. 2nd stop was for a few cherry tomatoes from the vegetable stand we saw yesterday. The guy running it was a little cranky, but the tomatoes were excellent and only €1. 😋 Also that day, pizza, arancini and gelato.
We could feel ourselves burning. Bought this to help combat the UV. Hope it helps. I also bought a parasol from souvenir vendor (I’ve always wanted one) for use back home. But it doesn’t fit in my suitcase. I’m really hoping I can get away with it as carryon and no one says anything.
Venice - Day 3: we started the day late... my phone died overnight and the alarm didn’t go off. Thankfully we had only planned to wander aimlessly today. We started the day with coffee and pastries from the cafe on the corner and ate them in the square. Then off to explore the neighbourhoods. Venice is filled with interesting door knobs and knockers. I was hoping to get more pictures...
Venice at night.

16 April 2018

Back at Devil’s Forest Pub for a nightcap.
Dinner. Centrale?
Series 3.
Series 2 of boat tour.
Series 1 of our boat tour. Including the guys doing exterior wall work on scaffolding on a boat.
Lunch at Osteria Trattoria Nono Risorto. A place picked at random that we enjoyed. We were craving vegetables so badly that we ate some of the salad before remembering to take a picture of it.
About to start our day tour of Venice. It’s much warmer than we expected and I feel silly now having brought a scarf and umbrella. 🙄
Walking in Venice is something, if you aren’t lost, the narrow paths and roads can still be a challenge. First photo is a really wide road and second is the more common road.
Various photos on the way to St. Mark’s Square and from there.
Our neighbourhood in Venice. Our street opens up onto a small canal. It’s such a unique setting. ❤️ Note: the last 2 photos have workers doing repairs in our courtyard, and they had to unload supplies from the canal on wheel narrows using the plank.

15 April 2018

We ended the night at Devil’s Forest Pub. A fun little Rock n’ Roll bar with friendly staff and a fun vibe.
Dinner at Birraria La Corte. Good pizza but Jen didn’t care for the look of the place.
After a failed attempt at one of our starred places, we decided to stop in at Osteria Ai Specchieri for a glass of wine. It’s pretty touristy and the wines by the glass are labelled by grape (Cabernet, Merlot, etc. ) with no indication of year or region. The gelato we got in San Marco Square was also mediocre. Fingers crossed that we find a few proper gems while we’re here.
After checking in, we set off to wander around for a while before dinner.
Arrived at the train station in Venice and now we are taking the vaperetto to our Airbnb.
After a vaparetto from the train station to our neighbourhood, our AirBnB hosts met us at the stop and walked us back to the apartment. It’s even nicer than the pictures portray, and so spacious. Venice is such a beautiful and interesting city.
On the train from Turin to Venice. The sites have been a little dull, but we often get beautiful mountains in the distance, and through the trees in the 2nd pic are some sort of ruins.
Turin, Italy: Our Summary. Turin is a beautiful city. Very interesting art and cultural monuments, and excellent food! The people are all very friendly and most speak French (which made things a little easier). One interesting thing (which we forgot to take photos of) are the little sheltered patios outside many of the restaurants. They almost look like bus sheltered as their walked in on 3 sides and open towards the restaurant. We hadn’t seen anything like it before or anywhere else in Italy. I would definitely want to go back to Turin and spend a little more time there.
Laundry day! The painful reality of packing light 😊

14 April 2018

For dinner we went to Pizza Ad Hoc. We just managed to get in, as they were packed. I can see why; the pizza is amazing! I wish we’d taken a picture of the ones we ordered. I know that Paul had the Rustica, but I can’t recall which one I had. They were both delicious!!
Evening drink at Oro Birra. Cool place with good music but we only stayed for one as we wanted to go for dinner elsewhere.
For lunch we went to Savuré, with the simple concept of “choose your freshly made pasta” and “choose your sauce”. Great concept and great food. I had the carbonara on tagliatelle and Paul had the Cacio e Pepe on Tajarin. The pasta was really good!
A few more pics as we wander around the palace.
The Armoury, including 3 really interesting helmets, one of which I call “the Orc”.
Draft - royal library. Sadly, Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on the flight of birds was not on display. It’s currently in restoration in Rome, preparing for an exhibit next year. 😥
The Royal Museum. Turin used to house the Royalty in Italy back in the day. Now the palace and grounds are open for viewing and tours.
Saturday morning, and we’re off to the Royal Museums and Library. Here are a few pics of our walk along the way.
After dinner drinks at Le Petit Baladin. Note how packed it is on the sidewalks and streets with people drinking. It’s Friday night and it feels like everyone in Torino is out to party!

13 April 2018

Dinner at La Badessa. We had no reservation, but they fit us in and it was an incredible experience. They brought a complimentary starter. We each ordered a pasta; mine was some kind of gnocchi with herbs and smothered in a white cheese sauce, and Paul had a kind of ragu, similar to a Bolognese. We split a bottle of wine and shared a custard-like dessert of Stracciatella with chocolate and cream. Already an incredible meal but to add to the whole experience, we were brought a complimentary starter and then a plate of truffles, biscotti and mandarin segments at the end. The restaurant was beautiful, with a heavy religious theme, and the music they were playing were Gregorian monks doing a version of Mad World by Tears for Fears. Before that it was Losing my Religion by R.E.M. Such a wonderful and memorable experience.
Drinks at Open Baladin, Torino. After the museum we decided to rest our (very sore) feet and grab a drink before dinner. We went to Open Baladin and sat at the bar. Everyone was very nice and the beers were great! The food looked excellent too, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to order burgers while in Italy.
Next stop was the Museum of Cinema. It’s housed in an old historic tower with exhibits spiralling up along the walls of the tower. It begins 1 floor below the main hall, with an exhibit of pre-cinema, exploring shadow puppets and use of lenses and photography. The museum is wonderful, however we arrived later than planned and by the time we were ready to climb the stairs and observe the upper levels inside the tower, it was closed. We still had a wonderful time. The photos attached show antique stereoscopes, magic lanterns and various glass inserts, a silent film they were showing clips of, and an experimental film display.
Next stop was for gelato. We were looking for GROM, but found this place with a line out the door; + Di Un Gelato. They were really nice and recommended flavour combos. I had the Stratiacella al Caffe (which has chocolate flakes throughout) & Mimosa (which was almost like a lemon cheesecake). Paul got Pistachio & Croccante al Gianduja (which was like Ferrero Rocher). It was very good and only €3 each.
After checking in, our first stop in Turin is a historic cafe to try the Bicerin; a drink of melted chocolate, espresso, amaretto liquor and whipped cream. It was wonderful!!
We arrived in Turin and made it to our AirBnB. It’s a cute loft apartment, with a great layout.
The countryside is beautiful. Our bus is driving through several national parks, surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains and tiny villages. At the moment we are just outside of Chambéry. As much as we would have loved to stay longer in Lyon, I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel between cities and to take in all of these beautiful sites.
Goodbye Lyon ❤️ We’re off to Turin by bus. (We had train tickets but it was cancelled due to a strike)
Lyon, France: Our Summary Reservations seem to be required on most places for dinner or lunch, but we were never truly stuck and always found a decent meal. The people in Lyon were very friendly and welcoming and seemed to appreciate that we spoke French. The coffee... sigh... it’s pretty difficult to find a coffee to go that is larger than a thimble. We found a couple of places, but sometimes it was more hassle than it was worth. The city is quiet but lively. Lots going on but no one is screaming and partying. It often reminded us of old Quebec. It’s not quite like Paris but often felt very similar to wandering Quebec City. So much cheese everywhere. Weather was pretty good the whole time. Lots motorcycles and scooters, & everyone smokes.

12 April 2018

After dinner we went to Hopstore for a few drinks. It was packed but we found a spot to stand at the bar. The beer lineup was good, though not as good as expected. The music was good.
We stopped for dinner at L’Interlude Cafe, on recommendation from Heather. It was perfect. The prices were reasonable, and the food was excellent. But it was the staff that really made us feel welcome. Our waiter had so much charisma, and a constant smile on his face. He would walk each table through the menu of the day and help with selection. Paul decided on the burger which had an amazing cheese sauce. It was messy and delicious. I got a steak, seared rare, sliced thin and served with rice and an Asian sesame sauce. It was very unique and very good.
Brief stop at the Museum of Movies & Miniatures. Hey look, it’s The Thing from the Roger Corman Fantastic Four film!
Gallo Roman Theatre. The theatre was built in two steps: around 15 BC, a theatre with a 90 m diameter was built next to the hill. At the beginning of the 2nd century, the final construction added a last place for the audience. The diameter is 108 m, and there were seats for 10,000 people. It’s still used today for open air concerts. Imagine seeing your favourite bands here!
So, we had a scare earlier.... After, we made our way back down and we were back in Vieux Lyon (where my legs were literally shaking from the steep hill) Paul noticed his bag was missing. The bag containing his passport!!! (Why was he carrying his passport around?? Who knows!!) We had to “run” back up this hill (a “million” stairs and steep paths). He finally conceded to pause part way up and call them to see if they could find his bag. They found it, but.... they noted that it was open. No word of the passport. I was livid. They told us to go to the gift shop to retrieve it. We finally got back to the top and went to the gift shop, but they didn’t know what we were talking about. It turns out there’s a 2nd gift shop. We ran over there and they had it. Everything was there. Passport included!! So relieved. And exhausted. New rule: we don’t walk around with passports!! 😡❤️😰😵
Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière is a minor basilica in Lyon. It was built with private funds between 1872 and 1884 in a dominant position overlooking the city. The site it occupies was once the Roman forum of Trajan, the forum vetus (old forum), thus its name (as an inverted corruption of the French Vieux-Forum). Note: Jen sitting in the Agnostic corner. Best seat in the house 😉
Interestingly, there was an excavation going on while we there. We’re not sure what they were searching for.
We made it to the Basilica! Amongst the photos you’ll see a cute little friend and the spectacular view of the city we had.
Working off lunch... the climb up the hill is intense. Very steep paths and stair cases.
For lunch we went to Le Krépiôt, one of the places we’d found in advance of our trip. The crepes did not disappoint, both were delicious.
Crossing into Vieux Lyon, we can see the Basilica in the distance. But first, we need lunch.
On our way to the Basilica, we passed through some beautiful areas in Lyon. The first 2 pictures are at Fontaine Des Jacobins, and the next 2 in Place Bellecour.
Hey McDonald’s, thanks for the awesome, helpful lid for my Cappuccino.

11 April 2018

Dinner and drinks at The Beers. Paul bought a few bottles of beer at a local bottle shop earlier in the day, and the shop owner told us that The Beers was his former bar. He said that if we went tonight, the bartender would take care of us. We’d planned to go tonight anyway, so this worked out. It was completely full when we arrived, but the bartender found us a space at a table with 2 others. It turns out that they were American travel bloggers. They were really nice and they seemed to be doing nearly the same route as us, only in reverse. They had just arrived in Lyon from Turin. 😊 We had a planche for dinner, with an amazing pâté en croute, and one of the posters outside the bathroom was for Bellwoods in Toronto!
Our first stop was Les Fleurs du Malt. We loved this place!! Great music (Danzig!), super atmosphere. I could hang out here all night... but we have to get dinner. Another time 😊 Fun thing they do: for Happy Hour they let you flip a coin for any pint of draft beer. If you win the coin toss, you pay half. We won every time!
Heading into Vieux Lyon to wander around before dinner.
We decided not to pack umbrella’s because we didn’t want to contribute any extra weight to our luggage. We figured we could find cheap ones once we arrived. Not so! We had a hard time finding anything under €15. We’ll have to plan differently next time. Edit: every umbrella we’ve seen for sale in Italy has been cheaper (by far!) than the ones in Lyon. 🤨
We stopped at Voisin to check out the speciality candies produced in Lyon. We picked up some Coussin de Lyon and some Pralines de Lyon. The latter is a candy coated almond with a slightly floral sweet flavour. It has vanilla and orange blossom, which compliment the almond flavour. It’s really nice!
The Bartholdi Fountain. The fountain depicts France as a female seated on a chariot controlling the four great rivers of France,represented by wildly rearing and plunging horses, highly individualized but symmetrically arranged, with bridles and reins of water weeds. It is in Place des Terreaux; a large public square surrounded by cafés and historic buildings.
La Fresque des Lyonnais. This is an incredibly detailed mural that highlights key figures throughout the history of Lyon. It’s an almost hypnotic site as you try to distinguish what’s painted what is an actual part of the building.
The Amphitheater of the Three Gauls. It was enclosed by a locked gate, so we were only able to get a few shots.
After lunch we were off to check out some of the sites closer to our apartment. Here are a few shots of the neighbourhoods on our way back. Side note: these steep hills made for a hard workout on the way to the silk museum. Paul was pretty annoyed 😊
We tried to go for lunch at a few places we’d pinned in our map, but were turned away for not having reservations (which never occurred to us on a Wednesday at lunch). We ended up at this little cafe called Cafe de la Soie and we had the formule midi. Paul chose the bœuf bourguignon and I had a fillet of cod, each with a glass of wine. Both were good and for dessert we had a fresh cheese: 1 with cream and the other with a berry coulis. A really nice finish the meal. It would have been nicer overall if there weren’t screaming children in the place, but it wasn’t a big deal.
Our first stop this morning: Maison des Canuts (the silk weavers). Silk has been a major source of revenue for Lyon for centuries and our guided tour included a demonstration of the machines. It was fascinating. In the 4th image you can see the strings attached to the machine, which were used to help weave certain patterns. An apprentice would work the strings unpaid for 5 years before they were allowed to become a weaver. The Weavers had to practice their trade for 10 years before they could apply to be considered a master. The entire process of generating, collecting and weaving the silk is incredibly laborious, hence the cost of the product. Another fun fact: when they were restoring the kings rooms in Versailles in the mid 1900’s, it was done by the silk Weaver’s in Lyon, using the original methods of the 17th century to ensure an accurate reproduction. It took them more than 20yrs!
Time to start our first full day here. This photo is of our cute little street. The 2nd photo is the main road in our neighbourhood. It’s such a great location.

10 April 2018

The aforementioned food and beverages of the night. It really was a much needed, and enjoyable, night in. Those cherry tomatoes were amazing!
A much needed night in. Filled with cheese, terrine, baguette and old French movies. We had Angelique, Marquise des Anges (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057846/ ) playing in the background while we sipped on drinks and Paul fussed with trying to create an Orange account to track our data usage on the new local SIMs. After more than an hour we decided to just use the SMS option to check and it turned out to be embarrassingly simple. Our Air BnB is on Rue de la Poulaillerie, right between the 2 rivers in the 1er arr. It’s a great little apartment in a beautiful a part of the city. We can’t wait to start exploring tomorrow.
We’ve landed in Lyon and overall the travels have been very smooth. We decided to take our chances and not purchase any advanced seating, and it paid off. We were in an aisle for 2 in row 13. TAP provided pillows, earbuds and a really good fleece blanket that was large enough to get comfortable and sleep for a few hours. Taking our chances on food paid off too. Instead of loading up before we boarded, we decided to work with whatever we got. Complimentary drinks (though we just had water) and a hot meal, which was decent and helped us settle into sleep. The lights were all off in the plane cabin and everyone was quiet so it was relatively easy to get a few hours of sleep. We also got breakfast an hour before landing, which we didn’t really need. I’m glad we didn’t spend extra on checked bags, seat selection and expensive airport snacks. It’s all worked out really well and has been one of the least stressful travel days we’ve had.
In Portugal very briefly but long enough to get some delicious Portuguese tarts. And Paul coffee is a tradition.
Enjoying a drink at the Vinifera bar before we board. Check in was super quick and easy, and the attendant was kind enough to change our seats so we’re not sandwiched between strangers. Carry-on luggage only this time, and the pass through check-in and security was less than 30 min, leaving us loads of time to relax before boarding. I hope the rest of the flight is this easy.