Saturday, July 20, 2013


Aaah, Venice. What is there not to love about Venice? I loved the tiny and sometimes confusing alleys, the vehicle-less paths, the gondolas passing by filled with awe struck tourists and couples. In fact, I found Venice to be more romantic than Paris but I figured it was because of the hot season that made Paris a little smelly. Apparently Venice can be smelly too.

A typical view of Venice.

We arrived in the late morning from Florence so we had plenty of time that first day to explore around Venice. We ended up walking almost all over the main islands, from the Jewish ghetto to the Rialto Bridge to St Mark's Square and back to where we were staying in the midst of getting lost along the way. Initially, we sporadically used the map but it's confusing with so many tiny lanes that you don't quite know if you're on the right track. As it became increasingly dark, I had to rely on my compass on my phone and look at the setting sun to lead us back. So yes, the compass on your phone is very useful when it comes to times like these!

The Rialto Bridge
St Mark's Square
Saw these at St Mark's Square, drapes that made these looked like men in robes
Happiness in feeding the pigeons
Dodge's Palace. Love the arches!

St Mark's Cathedral's façade was being restored so I took only half the building. Pity we didn't manage to go in.
The Bridge of Sighs
Santa Maria della Salute from afar.
The next day, we woke up late and bought a day pass for the vaporetto (water bus) and headed to Murano. First thing we did was to visit a glass factory who gave us a glass-blowing demonstration on how they made a tumbler. Thereafter, it was shopping for me as I went about searching for little trinkets for souvenirs.

Murano. Amazingly the shops weren't selling many duplicates so if you like something, just get it. 
At one point, we accidentally walked into the housing area in Murano and felt like we had walked into some Zombie land. The only folks we saw were this two old ladies chatting with each other but other than that, it was silently empty.

After munching a quick packed lunch, we headed to Burano. Initially I was asking KS if we really needed to go Burano because all he said was, "It's famous for it's colourful homes!". I'm so glad that we went! The colours are so bright and cheerful, you can't help feeling happy too! Highly recommended to make a pit stop!

Isn't this such a cheerful sight?
There was this cute dog in Burano who cuddled up to us for some time. It was only later we realized he was lost as he ran up and down the streets looking for his owners. 

Since our daily ticket is valid for 12 hours, we simply hopped into any vaporetto attempting to make our way to St Mark's Cathedral but ended up in Lido. We didn't explore Lido as we were trying to make it to the cathedral before it closed. Alas, we didn't make it on time so we ended up just walking back.

We had planned to eat at this Jewish restaurant at the Jewish Ghetto. We've never had Jewish food before (don't think there will be a Jewish restaurant in Malaysia anytime soon) so we were excited about our little food adventure. Alas, the restaurant was closed for a private function and from the limited communication with the wait staff, it was as if the restaurant won't be open at all for whatever times we asked.

We thought it was just miscommunication so we tried our luck on our last day for lunch. Again, we were turned away for a reason we couldn't understand. Too bad. Maybe we should try in Singapore if there's one.

Anyway, on our last day, it rained and rained as we went about buying more souvenirs and tried to buy my Longchamp bag (that's a separate story altogether) and attempted to visit St Mark again. Unfortunately, St Mark's Square was like this:

So we didn't manage to go into the cathedral at our third attempt. Sadly, floods are now increasingly common in Venice.

Plastered on the walls around Venice was this:
This would have been an interesting concert to attend...
Venice is definitely the most expensive place in terms of food. For our dinners, we paid an average of €30-€40 in Rome, €40-€50 in Florence while Venice can come up to over €70. We also encountered rather rude servers (bus ticket station, waiter, retail outlet) but it didn't mar my Venice experience.

So, this draws my Italy trip to its end. Definitely worth it to allocate one trip just for Italy.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Florence in 2 Days

A trip to Italy isn't complete without a visit to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. We left Pisa at about 4pm and arrived at about 6pm plus. However, since I'm not much of an art fan, most of the activities we did was merely to check off the bucket list. But I did take a lot of photos in Florence so bear with this post.

We visited 3 museums, the Bargello, the Accedemia (just to see David) and Uffizi in one day. There were two free walking tours which we wanted to do but ended up not doing since we wanted to just walk around on our own. On hindsight, I guess we could have learnt a lot more from a walking tour but we overdid it at the Uffizi by renting the audio guide and trying to listen to almost every numbered artifact.

The Uffizi had a great collection though. The painting I remembered most was The Birth of Venus and Primavera by Botticelli. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photos inside so I don't have any.

Florence is packed with tourists and the old city is a rather small area. We covered the most of old city by foot by the first day including visits to the 3 museums, Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, crossing the river to see the Palazzo Pitti and walking on the Ponte Vecchio. The second day was spent shopping (requests from family and friends), climbing the Duomo, passing by Santa Croche and lazing at Piazza Michaelangelo.

So here's what we covered, in pictures. We went to see David (3 of him, in fact) but were not allowed to take photos of the original one in the Accedemia. At the Accedemia, we went straight to see David and sat for a good 5-10 minutes each on his left, back, right and front while trying to absorb this Renaissance icon. He was the main reason why I insisted we visited Florence because one does not simply go to Italy and not see David, amirite?
In front of the Palazzo Vecchio
Here he is again at the Piazza Michaelangelo
While we were at the Piazza Michaelangelo, I spotted this at the base of the statue:
An intrusion of cockroaches trying to squeeze a bit of biscuit into the cracks. I didn't stay long enough to watch them succeed.
We walked around the leather markets and also visited the food market:
I was very tempted to bring back a whole leg of ham but didn't think the Malaysia Airport Customs would appreciate scanning it.
All sorts of bread 
Cheeeeese, Gromit!
Dry goods
Cute pig deco
Of course we visited the Duomo which took me some time to appreciate it. I initially found it a bit gaudy, too busy in design but it's uniqueness eventually won me over. We decided to climb the Duomo instead of the bell tower. If you're claustrophobic, I'd advice against it as the stairs were narrow plus there were people trying to come down the same way we were coming up.

The fins at the top of the Duomo
Climbing up the Duomo via narrow and steep paths
Cyclists everywhere in Florence. My first attempt at a panning shot!

Of course we crossed the Ponte Vecchio but took these shots from Ponte Santa Trinita. The Arno River was so still that day. Loved the view that day.
Ponte A. Vespucci and the buildings alongside the Arno
Ponte Vecchio
As mentioned, we visited the Uffizi where we listened to almost everything on the audio guide.


We also visited the Palazzo Vecchio and took shade from rain but we didn't explore within. Didn't know Dante's death mask was placed here.

We were told not to miss the sunset at the Piazza Michaelangelo. So we waited along with a whole bunch of tourists. They came equipped with high end camera gears.

I was expecting the setting sun to cast its warm glow onto the entire Florence rooftops but instead, the sun dipped between some mountains.

The Church of Santa Croche was so bright and outstanding from the top of the Duomo that we had to make our way there to see its façade.
Stopped by Church of Santa Croche where Michaelangelo was buried but we didn't go in.
What else is famous in Florence? My colleague recommended to try the bistecca fiorentina and I was shocked when the restaurant wanted to serve me 1kg of it! I managed to get them to halve it so here's my 500g. I now truly appreciate rare steak because it simply melts in the mouth! This one that I had only had a tiny bit which was rare while the rest was a bit too well done for me.

My 500g T-bone steak!

Okay, enough of the touristy stuff of Florence, I actually was very amused at reading the road signs in Florence. These add-ons are stickers and they're so cute! I wish I could buy the stickers and start sticking them back here in Malaysia!

Prior to reading Dan Brown's Inferno, I never really read much about the Medici family or Florence history. Now that I know just a surface of it, I would definitely do the walking tours if I were to do Florence again. Like I would have taken notice of the secret passage on top of the Ponte Vecchio. Can't believe I missed that! Or stepped into the Duomo's Baptistry. Ah, the list could go on.

Our final stop was Venice. Coming up next.