The guy at the hotel recommended the Caio Roma bus so after breakfast we headed up to the Vatican and on the way were approached by a tour guide and purchased tickets for the hop-on hop-off as well as the colosseum. First stop was the Trevi Fountain which was covered in scaffolding. They kindly put a walkway over the empty pond so one could get close to the sculptures but it was a bit of a disappointment.
Next stop was the Spanish Steps. I have to say they need a hit with the K’Archer. Lachy sat at the bottom but Ali and I climbed to the top, fought off the Indian selfy-stick hawkers and took some snaps and then grabbed Lachy and headed back to the bus stop where we had to wait nearly 45 minutes for the next bus during which time a dozen buses from the other companies cruise past. We decide to go straight to the colloseum given the unreliability of the service.
We had to phone to find the meeting point for the tour and it was typical Italian chaos as the tourists were herded by the guides into language groups but eventually we set off. The first stop was Constatines patched together triumphal arch and then we entered the big arena. The guide was kinda funny making what he thought was amusing comments and waiting expectantly for a reaction which he mostly didn’t get. The structure is amazing and even in its ruinous state, it’s possible to imagine the grandeur of it in its day. I asked about the pattern of holes in the walls and it turns out they held metal clips which held on all the marble cladding which has been recycled over the years into other projects.
When we exited, I was expecting we would enter the Palatine Hill but for the extra 6 euro what we got was a running commentary from outside the fence which was fair enough for the money. We ended in the town square and headed straight for the bus which thankfully didn’t take too long, although it was a surprise to hear from the conductor that this was the last bus as we were told the service would run for another 90 minutes, not that you would see much in the dark. We headed back to St Peters with the intention of going inside but Lachy dug his rather sore heels in so a trattoria was found and the beast fed. The restaurant was staffed by Indians and the meal was Ok but the atmosphere was more Goa than Rome.
Back at the hotel we picked up the Vatican Museum tickets for tomorrow and headed to bed.
Movie not withstanding.
Up at 7 for a shower and I managed to get Lachy down to breakfast by 8.20. They had some scrambled eggs and tiny cooked cabanossi. The machine cappuchino was respectable and they even had some rice cakes. Lachy was able to enjoy a croissant and Ali had some cereal and fruit.
We went back to the room and packed our bags, checked out, stored the luggage and then began exploring. First stop was the Ponte Vecchio. Lots of tourists and expensive jewellery.
We wandered up to the Uffuzi but the line would have been 300 metres long and it wasn’t even open yet.
Instead we lined up for tickets to The Palazzo Vecchio. We wandered through the rooms used by the Medicis to govern Florence. There was extensive mural painting as well as paintings, statuary and some interesting pieces of furniture. The main hall was massive and could have held thousands.
Lachy was getting restless so we stopped for lunch at the Il David restaurant for pizza, gnocchi, chips, coke and beer.
We then wandered through the market stalls and streets up to the Duomo which Lachy hadn’t seen and then beyond to a whole street of market stalls eventually ending up near the railway station.
Everywhere you go there are African and Indian hawkers trying to sell you crap. I found it really detracted from what should have been an Italian experience.
It was time for coffee and afterwards, we explored Santa Maria Novella which had a nice chapel and a courtyard garden that was surrounded by priest graves.
It was getting late so we returned to the hotel and retrieved our luggage and walked back to the train station, arriving a good hour before the train.
The station was absolutely packed with people and we had to wait until 10 minutes before the train arrived before they indicated the platform.
I spotted the change and we headed down to platform 11 and soon the train pulled in.
On we hopped and settled on for the 90 minute ride to Rome Termini.
The train pulled out and proceeded to speed up. Darkness fell quickly and we were soon hurtling along at 249 kph.
It took 90 minutes to get to Rome and a terrifying 20 minute can ride had us at the Hotel Tango. The room had a bathroom and sitting room downstairs and a mezzanine bedroom. Lachy’s bed was the settee downstairs. We had some snacks with us from the trip and were bushed after a big day so it was bed time in preparation for exploring tomorrow.
So many people eating breakfast at 6 that we had to eat outside. We were ready on time and descended to level 1 and were amongst the first to exit. The people mover hadn’t started yet so we hoofed it all the way to the station.
Found a seat and had some decent coffee. We were well early for the train and managed more coffee and a nestle peach tea for Lachy. The platform number flashed up about 15 minutes before departure and off we went. The tickets were marked economy but when we got to the train it turned out to be first class, a very nice way to travel.
Complimentary drinks and snacks and plenty of luggage storage and only three seats across.
The train hit 217 kph in the first stretch. Why don’t we have these trains in Australia?
We were a little late into Bologna but on the next leg, the trip was mostly in tunnels with the occasional glimpse of mountain scenery as we burst from one and plunged into the next. At one point I saw 257 kph on the screen.
The train pulled into Florence about 11.35 so we grabbed a cab to the hotel.
The entry was a big set of wooden doors with a buzzer. Inside it was up the stairs and lift to the second floor for reception and disappointment.
Despite having a confirmed booking there is no room for us. Some confusion over another Jones guest.
The receptionist was aghast and ushered us into the lounge while she sorted another hotel.
This was done and the room would be ready shortly so we headed out to a rather extravagant lunch.
I had risotto, fish, chianti. Lachy had spaghetti and the fish while Ali had steak and chips florentine style. The place was empty at 1 but absolutely packed at 2 when we left.
We returned and grabbed our bags. The hotel paid for a taxi to take us over the river and we were soon in our new arrangements that although not beautiful was a perfectly acceptable multi room suite and 50 euro cheaper than the plush one.
Lachy was bushed by this time, so Ali and I headed up to the Duomo and joined the line for the cathedral. We were inside fairly quickly. This was another different experience, not as beautiful as Burgos but very open and airy with massive columns and modest decoration on the inside.
The exterior is clad in exquisite green white and red marble. We then joined the queue for Giottos Bell Tower. You can climb the very narrow staircase in stages as there are platforms every 100 steps or thereabouts. At the third stage, the bells started ringing and the noise was exceptionally loud. I could feel the vibrations in my chest. Even after 414 steps you still don’t get as high as the Duomo. It was very crowded at the top but what a view.
When I made the exit, at the top step I raised my hand in a victory cheer which raised a bit of mirth in the crowd waiting to get in.
Now it was dark so we headed off to search out the Accademia and the statue of David.
We were there after 5 minutes walk and 40 minutes before closing. Inside, we entered a gallery on the left and at the end was David. The shock is it’s about 2 or threes times larger than life size. The caption says after viewing this statue, there’s no need to look at any others because it’s perfect and it certainly is impressive. The Accademia also has an extensive collection of early religious art in addition the the sculpture.
It was time to head back and grab Lachy for a simple meal after the extravagance of lunch but we ended up with another gastronomic delight accompanied by some Pinot Grigio and for Lachy, the largest glass of Coke I have ever seen. For desert Ali and I had florentine ice cream in contrasting presentations mine was white plate, black square serviette, spoon sprinkled over with cacao, Ali’s was black plate, white triangle serviette, spoon sprinkled over with icing sugar. Very elegant for a trattoria and quite delicious.
We returned to our functional if not beautiful suite and watched a 70’s music show, the only thing in English before I hit the hay.
It’s sailing day back to Venice. Late start, nearly missing breakfast at 10.20 as they began clearing the food shortly after we were seated.
Ali and I then went to the internet lounge to check out itinerary items for the remainder if our trip, successfully licking the credit card while trying to buy some tickets.
We lunched late also as they began packing up as soon as we got there.
While watching a movie back in the suite, I noticed I had cell coverage so I rang westpac and Ali successfully got the card sorted out. The banking security assumes that you have your phone working normally while away but nobody in their right mind would run a smart phone on international roaming and data roaming as the cost could run to thousands.
The solution is to get a roaming sim which works by using VoIP to connect you to numbers in your directory. It does this by accepting your call instructions as a text then finding the number and calling you back.
We should have been a little better organised when it came to this but it seems to be sorted now.
We ate early in the dining room and stopped at the shop to pick up a watch that Ali had some links removed from and then went to the farewell show and then it was time to pack.
I managed to catch up on my blogs and post too although adding pictures is slow.
Lachy is really missing the internet so I had to let him back on for the remainder of our 24 hour purchase.
Now it was bedtime as I needed to be up at 5.30 to shower so we could breakfast at 6 and disembark at 7.30.