Thursday, May 30, 2013


I have now arrived in Paris after 10 days in Italy. My experiences there have been rather mixed. It began badly with the hotel in Rome. I had originally intended  sailing in the overnight ferry from Dubrovnik to Italy but the ferry only ran some nights which did  not suit me. I therefore flew to Rome and extended my stay in Florence (a good decision) and tried to change my accommodation in Rome to a day earlier. This was at the beginning of January but after many unanswered emails, I rang and on the 2nd call was assured it was ok. Wrong. They did not have me booked in and they were full. However the manageress gave me a room in her apartment downstairs for the first night but it was a harrowing welcome. While the staff were nice, the hotel was one of the worst (but at least clean).

On the Sunday morning I was pleased to be able to attend  Eucharist at the local Anglican church at about the same time as Joanna Fielding from St John’s Roslyn was being ordained a priest in Dunedin cathedral.

I then walked the usual sites, Spanish steps, Trevi Fountain with lunch in the Piazza Venezia followed by a walk down to the Colosseum

which I visited along with hordes of other tourists. Fortunately the 3 day pass, purchased mainly for the transport benefits, gave me 2 free entries without queueing and I used the first there.

I was glad to return to my hotel and find I now had a room even if very tiny and old.

On Monday I went to the Vatican and queued to visit St Peters. Then after coffee I wandered around Castle Angelo and crossed the Tiber. 

I boarded a bus back to Piazza Venezia and received a message that my sister and brother-in-law were at the Trevi Fountain on the tour from their ship. A quick rush through the Rome traffic and we managed to meet up and I followed their group for about 20 minutes to the Spanish steps.
I then set off alone again and used my other free entry for the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.

That night was probably the best part of Rome for me. I travelled by bus out to the Music Auditorium and heard the National Academy of St Cecilia, apparently one of the oldest musical institutions in the world, play Mahler’s 3rd Symphony.  I counted approximately 100 in the orchestra with 40 women and 60 boys and girls in the choir plus a mezzo soprano soloist, Katarina Karneus from Sweden.  The conductor was Tilson Thomas from the USA.
As this is the longest symphony in the standard repertoire I was lucky to hear it and it was a wonderful experience even  if it did not start until 9pm I did not get back to my hotel until nearly midnight.

On Tuesday I was pleased to leave Rome and travel by train to Florence. In my opinion a much nicer city, probably helped by having a lovely hotel room.
After settling in and buying some lunch I headed for a park and was a bit surprised to find I had to pay entry but it also gave me entry to other gardens and some small museums. I visited Italy way back in January 1977 and did not want to see all the art works again. I have included a photo of a rose garden with the porcelain museum behind.
and a pleasant covered walk
plus one particular character

Wednesday I began my walks in Tuscany. I caught the bus up into the hills to the town of Fiesole and after a coffee looking out over Florence I walked about 8 km mainly on local roads but finally down a bush track to the town of Settignano, where I bought a sandwich and drink for the same price as the earlier coffee with a view.  One photo taken on the walk.

After a bus back to Florence and a rest, I went out after 5pm to the busy Piazza della Signoria right next to my hotel and visited the old town hall or Palazzo Vecchio to take in some culture.

After dinner it was out to another concert. This time in the St Mark’s Anglican church where  a soprano and a tenor gave a rendition advertised as  Love duets of Italian Opera but there were many solos as well and, although they sang it in Italian, Vilia from the Merry Widow is hardly Italian.  2 arias from La Boheme brought back memories of 3 weeks earlier in Vienna. It was a quite enjoyable evening.

Thursday I went walking again. After an hour train ride it was shown as a 13km hike but that did not allow for me setting off along the wrong road and returning to the station again after 40 minutes and probably over 2 km.

The scenery was lovely and I passed almost through some farms

and the medieval village of San Gimignano

 was often in view, thankfully getting closer but by the time I reached it, I was not fit to do anything more than find a drink and buy my bus ticket. It is a UNESCO town famous for its tower houses.

Arriving back in Florence I decided against visiting the Academy of Fine Arts and the David statue. After treating the blisters it was all I could do to hobble out for dinner.

Friday back on the train, this time to Venice. When I arrived it was pouring rain and windy and dragging my bag over 3 bridges was no fun. My sister’s ship was delayed by the weather.  However it fined up and I caught a vaporetta to St Mark’s square and visited the church.

After a lot of texting hassles, I met up with my sister again and this time we caught the vaporetta back to near my hotel, had dinner and then I managed to guide her back to her ship.

Saturday was a long journey in 3 trains to the Cinque Terre. It was relieved by sharing a compartment on one train with 2 couples, one from Adelaide and one from Perth.

My hotel was in Deiva Marina, 20 minutes by train from the main 5 towns but was right on the beach front which would have cost a fortune in the main towns. While not beach weather, breakfast on the terrace was pleasant.

The main tourist trails are closed due to storm damage and will probably remain so for months. I decided to take the more difficult trails and climbed over 600 metres up from Roggiamore

 and then along the hill ridge

and finally back down to the town of Corniglia (photo taken from the track way up above) .
and in the village

 Altogether it was 13km and some parts were quiet steep and slippery. I was glad I carted my boots and hiking stick all this way.  The blisters needed constant attention.

My plan was to take the following day easy and go on a ferry trip between the main towns but the winds were up and the ferries were cancelled. So I decided to do the remaining open popular walk between Vernazza

 and Monterossa. It was just 4km and only rises to 160 metres but some of it was scary along the cliffs above the sea.

I managed to visit 4 of the 5 towns but saw the 5th from above and from the train.

Unfortunately I had packed my stick in my bag as I caught a train about 5pm to Milan where, after staying overnight, I continued on a train into France and finally this apartment in Paris. Only gentle walking this week to give my feet a rest. It is cooler than usual in Europe this May but I see that my home in Dunedin was blanketed in snow on Tuesday.

1 comment:

Gate-away said...

You are so lucky to have explored Italy's famous areas, particularly Rome and the rest of Tuscany. Florence is indeed a magnificent place—it is like the Garden of Eden with its plush greens and floral. The architecture evokes a feeling of nostalgia from Italy's rich history. Anyway, this post is entertaining for me. Please keep posting about your future travels. Regards!