Australia and Oceania, Asia, Europe · 21 Days · 47 Moments · September 2017

Sarah's adventure in Italy

24 September 2017

Today we visited San Gimignano, another small walled town on the hilltops of Siena, Tuscany. It is known as the Town of Fine Towers, because of its tower-houses that have been preserved over the centuries. Apparently there were once approximately 72 tower houses however only 15 remain today with the oldest dating back to the 12th century. In 1348 the Plague devastated the city and it faded in obscurity, until it was rediscovered as tourist attraction in 19th century. The historic center of San Gimignano is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

23 September 2017

After lunch in Siena we headed out to the Chianti region for wine tasting before winding through the countryside to our hotel in Radda.
Have had a busy day exploring Siena - a beautiful Tuscan city famous for its medieval brick buildings, the gothic style town hall and tower (Pubblico Palace) and the Siena Cathedral. These photos are of the streets and town square that we walked through on our way to visit the Siena Cathedral. Siena is also renowned for the Palio di Siena horse race that is held twice each year, on 2 July and 16 August, in the Pubblico Palace. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. The winning ward earns the right to decorate their ward with banners etc.

22 September 2017

Last night we headed to another quaint Umbrian town named Spello. We walked through the pretty streets of this walled city to the Ristorante I'll Molina for dinner. I'll Molino is positioned in an old Mill and one of the internal walls is an old roman wall that dates back to the 4th Century AD. On entry to the Ristorante is one of the Mill's stone wheels that ground wheat for bread etc.
Later in the morning our guide led us into the town of Cortona, another walled city. We were interested to visit this town because our dear friends Lesley and Greg McAlister were married here 19 years ago. We hunted out the town hall as we remember them telling us they were married inside and on walking down the steps they were greeted by the locals throwing rice! It was great to see the place in person - just a little late for the wedding!
This morning we headed out to a little town Cortona. Before arriving in the town, our guide directed us to the archeological site of the Tumulus Tombs. A form of burial, they covered the dead with stones and earth, in order to be able to identify where they were buried to make it an object of religious and social recognition. The tombs date back to the early 6th century BC and the first tomb was discovered in 1909. We also visited the Bramasole - Villa Laura, the charming house used in the film 'Under The Tuscan Sun' Since being used for the movie Villa Laura has been beautifully renovated and is now a 5-star vacation villa.

20 September 2017

Our guide met us at our hotel and walked us to the Duomo. The Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta) is a large 14th-century Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and situated in Orvieto in Umbria. The Cathedral is decorated out of basalt and travertine, there are 3 rose gold windows and alabaster panes in the bottom parts of the aisle windows to keep the interior cool during summer. Near the left entrance is the large marble baptisimal font with lions and elaborate friezes.

19 September 2017

After Positano we drove further around the coast to the town of Amalfi. This was another stunning town built below the steep cliffs. The town square is home to the Amalfi Cathedral dedicated to the Apostle Saint Andrew whose relics are kept here.
Today we awoke to thunder and lightning so our visit to Positano and Amalfi was delayed. Although it was wet and cloudy the weather lifted later in the morning. The drive along the coast was beautiful. Very narrow, windy stretches with massive drops from the cliffs to the water. The photos here are taken on the way into and at Positano. Didn't quite get the postcard photos I was hoping for but that's one item off the bucket list! Very few residents along this coast own a car and their simply is no where to park. Parking needs to be booked ahead with the garage and in peak season if you don't have a reservation, you cannot stop.

18 September 2017

Today we took a ferry from Sorrento to Capri. We were firstly met by our guide and then transferred to a boat. The boat took us out to see the Grottos and the different formations in the cliffs. The water was a beautiful blue and it was interesting to see how the colour changed in the Grottos. We went through the 'hole in the rock' - Capriona!

16 September 2017

St Peter's Square
St Peter's Basilica
Vatican Museums
Vatican museums

15 September 2017

More works from the Basilica di Santa Croce.
We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe - not your typical choice for Venice however the gents felt like some meat! We went for a long walk through St Marks Square, over the Rialto Bridge and found our way home via the narrow streets and squares. We shared our final morning with the Bilderbecks and soaked up some last sights of Venice. It was a brief visit, very busy with tourists but we will be back in a couple of weeks at the end of our tour. Farewell Bilderbecks - you've been great travelling companions and we look forward to the next trip. Train back to Rome to begin our tour.

14 September 2017

Today Malcolm and I took the train from Florence to Venice. We arrived at midday and made our way to our apartment. We found a great restaurant - Antica Carbonera where the chef cooked your pasta in front of you. The Bilderbecks arrived and we had to move apartments because of an issue with the water. Unfortunately the location wasn't as good as we had planned but the apartment is lovely and we have managed to see a lot of Venice in an afternoon thanks to Scott's great navigation skills.

13 September 2017

Today we visited the Basilica di Santa Croce (Holy Cross) the largest Franciscan church in world. It is unknown as to whether St Francis of Assisi founded the church. The church features 16 chapels each decorated by murals by Giotto and his pupils. It is the burial place of some of the most famous Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo and Rossini. The paintings/art are amazing and there is no wonder why several students travel to Florence to study art.
Attached to the Basilica di Santa Croce is the Museum of the Opera of Santa Croce. It has some extraordinary works dating back to 1250. One of my favourite pieces is St Francis's robes. The materials preserved inside the stock room of Santa Croce had been moved to the former refectory in 1884 but the museum was opened only on November 2nd 1900. In 1966, the river Arno flooded and the water level in Santa Croce reached 5 metres seriously damaging many works of art. The Crucifix by Cimabue was one of many that have been restored.
This is the Piazzo Della Signoria. A copy of the original statue of David rests outside here however the original can be seen in the museum. The Loggia dei Lanzi, an outdoor museum of statues also exists here and I was fascinated by the statue of Perseo holding Medusa's head. Apparently it was built as reminder to all of what happened to those who crossed the Medici.
We found a great food market to explore. Lots of fresh meats, cheeses, vegetables, mushrooms of all kinds and antipasti. Delishimo!

12 September 2017

We then walked across the Ponte Vecchio which houses several jewellery stores. It was packed with tourists taking photos of the river and bridge (like us) and maybe purchasing a piece of jewellery (not us). After a long day, we settled in a cute bar for a Spritz and cheese platter.
We also visited the Royal Apartments within the Palace. This is the throne room where the King took his attendances and the stunning chapel Napoleon built when he took over the Palace.
Ceilings and art from the Piazzo di Pitti
Chandeliers from the Piazzo di Pitti
Today we spend most of the day at Piazzo di Pitti or Pitti Palace. It dates from 1458 and was originally the home of Luca Pitti, a banker. It was bought by the Medici family in 1549 and became the chief residence of the ruling families of Tuscany. Today the Palace houses an Art Museum, the Boboli Gardens, a Porcelain collection, and the Royal Residences. These pictures are from the Boboli Gardens.

11 September 2017

This afternoon Malcolm and I explored Florence so we could get our bearings before the Bilderbeck's arrive. I think I love this city - it's so compact, lots of narrow streets, beautiful buildings and several restaurants and bars to choose from. Looking forward to a more in depth tour tomorrow.
We arrived in Florence and checked in to our hotel. It is very comfortable and conveniently located near the markets. We headed out to find a laundry and I made a quick detour through the markets to see what I could find - Leather bags anyone? Pick a colour, any colour!
Farewell Rome. We've had a blast. Now off to the Florence on the high speed train.

10 September 2017

We had a slow start to the day because there was heavy rain with thunder and lightning. The guys went to a football match at the Rome Olympic Stadium between AC Milan and Lazio Rome. The ladies browsed the shops, drank cocktails and did a bit more sight-seeing. We returned to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore to find a first holy communion service in action. It was beautiful! We found a cute bar for dinner and met the guys at the Trevi Fountain. We wandered to the Spanish Steps where I caught a glimpse of St Peter's Basilica lit up in the distance. Tomorrow we take the train to Florence.

9 September 2017

Tonight we continued the 50th celebrations with an Eat With experience with our hosts and chefs Christina and Giovanni. The evening was fabulous. It was a gorgeous setting on a roof top terrace with amazing authentic food and wine, and of course with great friends to join in with the celebrations.
This morning started at an Irish Pub watching the All Blacks play Argentina. Great result! We then visited the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. It was both amazing and overwhelming! The Basilica has kept its original structure although it has been enhanced over the years. For nearly 16 centuries pilgrims from all over the world have visited it to experience and admire its majesty. The details in the Basilica are incredible. The mosaics, marble, side chapels and the Holy Crib are a few of the treasures contained here. Every column, painting, sculpture and ornament represents a piece of history and pious sentiment.

8 September 2017

Following the tour we wandered across the river to find a bus to take us home. We came across some ruins and amazing sights. Embarrassingly we are not sure what the photos are of but we will find out! We returned to the hotel before heading out to catch up with Vlad, Yvette and Giselle. The Bilderbeck's then joined us for dinner at a gorgeous seafood restaurant. Sorry Keryn!
Today we took a Trastevere for Foodies tour as recommended by good friends Sandra and Warren Williams. Our tour guide Francesco walked and talked us through a number of roman delicacies. We started with something sweet, very similar to a profiterole and then we wandered to Antica Caciara, a famous delicatessen since 1900, for a cheese tasting followed by porchetta sandwich. We then learnt why Romans love their suppli’ (mouthwatering fried risotto ball). We then headed to the local market for some beautiful fresh fruit kebabs with prochetto. Francesco then educated us on real-deal gelato at Fatamorgana and explained that the gelato we we're probably eating was 'fake' made out of powders etc. And if that wasn't enough we headed to a local osteria for amatriciana and cacio e pepe pastas with wine and fresh bread. We ended the tour with some biscotti at Biscottificio. It was a fabulous experience! Following the tour we wandered across the river to find a bus to take us home.

7 September 2017

Hello Rome. It's good to be here. After checking in to our hotel, we went for a wander to check out the area. We found a great local restaurant where we enjoyed Spritz and pizza.
Farewell Dubai. We've found your city fascinating. We'll be back. Watch out, here we come Rome!

6 September 2017

To end the day we took a cruise down Dubai creek on a traditional wooden dhow and enjoyed views of traditional and modern Dubai. The cruise took us through Creekside and past Al Fahidi Fort for stunning views of the Arabian Gulf, before returning to our hotel for a swim.
We decided that the best way to see as much of the city as possible was on the Hop On Hop Off tour. We saw some fabulous landmarks including the Atlantis The Palm, Palm Island Drive, Jumeirah Mosque and the Dubai Museum. The contrast between the old and the new city was evident.
This morning we visited the BURG KHALIFA - the tallest building in the world. We took a very fast elevator to the 148th floor and spent time enjoying the views of Dubai. The building itself is impressive but to listen to the story of how it was constructed was amazing.

5 September 2017

We spent most of the day exploring the Dubai Mall soaking up the air conditioning as it was 42 degrees outside. No shopping though as all high end shops. Early evening we visited the spice and gold markets and then back to the Mall for dinner and watch the fountain light show.
Good morning Dubai! Arrived to 33 degrees at 7.00am. Interesting drive to our hotel - heaps of construction in the city. Checked in to hotel however rooms are not available yet do we are off to explore the city.

4 September 2017

So the others have arrived but have stopped for a beverage at Gate 37 along the way. They are in no rush to meet us. We are at the Peroni bar closer to our gate. Cheers!
Arrived Sydney International Airport. Waiting to meet up with bridesmole Keryn Bilderbeck, her husband Shane, and Scott and Sandra Bilderbeck. Traveling to Dubai together.
Departing Brisbane!