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personal - Italy Tour - 2006

Itinerary for Days 6 to 7 according to the brochure.

picture of my suitcase

Day 6: Florence

Enjoy an excursion into Florence, with an optional guided walking tour to see some of the most outstanding historic buildings and sights. Walk along the narrow streets and imagine the medieval world of wealthy bankers, noblemen and craftsmen who built Florence's fine palaces, churches and the peculiar Ponte Vecchio.

Day 7: Florence to Rome

Following the autostrada through beautiful Tuscan and Umbrian countryside, we reach Rome, Byron's 'City of the Soul'. Enjoy an optional tour of ancient Rome and a night-time tour. This evening we enjoy dinner and an overnight stay in Rome at the Hotel Pineta Palace (4*)

Personal Commentary

Day Six

I woke at 5:30 and placed my semi dry clothing in the wardrobe. It was surprising that despite the heat, the clothes washed the night before were not dry. I also noticed ants and a stain on the bathroom floor. Ummm. Missed those the day before. I showered, dressed (unsurprisingly) and went to down to an ok breakfast.

The coach took us into Florence and we began a tour with Julianna. Julianna was extremely knowledgeable but gave us too much information, in too much heat. A three hour walking tour was excessive. I suspect for a greater appreciation you'd need multiple visits of one hour each to focus on specific elements. That being said, we managed to see some beautiful Romanesque and gothic architecture.

We started somewhere near the center of Florence, in Piazza della Republica...actually we started by a church, a little off-center - Santa Rabello Church. We walked past the Basilica di Santa Maria Del Fiore -  having received a warning about begging gypsies - and continued into the Piazza della Republica. Piazza della Republica is the largest Piazza in Florence and is lined with expensive cafes and a couple of expensive hotels. We moved from there to the Piazza di Santa Croce and took pictures of the Basilica di Santa Croce, the principle Franciscan church in Florence.

This church contains the monumental tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Rossini and a memorial to Dante.  We also saw the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, which we entered. Tourists hovvered in front of it like bees to pollen. We had to cover our shoulders and ensure we were not wearing 'short' shorts before going in. We also saw a nun wearing a baseball cap which was mildly amusing.

If you like statues, then Florence is the place to come. Statues by the bucket load! Apologies for my somewhat irreverent tone, but once you've seen one ten foot statue of a naked man with his genitalia thrust above your head, you've seen them all! I guess one of the best places to see statues is the Palazzo Vecchio (or Palazzo della Signoria as it used to be called.) However, to be honest there were just as many statues in the Piazza della Signoria (which is basically an outdoor art gallery), including a replica of the David statue which I shameless photographed from all conceivable angles. (The real 'David' is in Galleria dell'Accademia if you can be bothered to queue up to see it.) Oh! I almost forgot...for those of you that saw the film Hannibal - about the psychopathic eater of flesh not the soldier with the elephants across the alps, or the bloke from the 'A' Team - then you'll recognise the Palazzo Vecchio window (see pictures below) from which Rinaldo Pazzi was hanged and disemboweled.

We had a great leisurely walk along Piazza degli Uffizi, with it's many artists and vendors. I actually took what I consider to be some great photographs here although I am none the wiser about the history of this Piazza. (I'd switched off from what our guide was telling us by this time.)

We strolled up to the Ponte Vechio. Yes I know I mentioned the Ponte Vechio before with regard to Venice, but this is another one. Do keep up! This bridge is one of Florence's oldest and most charming bridges with little shops and houses clinging to the sides. Great photo opportunities can be had here, especially if you don't mind pushing a few tourists to one side. We saw a couple of police officers who refused to have their picture taken. Pretentious twits.

Incidentally the city was full of mopeds. Apparently the moped is one of the most used modes of transport in this city. Just thought I'd throw that in! We took a walk past the Mercato Nuovo where there was some haggling for a belt. Haggling is actually something I am not good at but if you are prepared to do so with some of the open air vendors, you can actually get a good deal on certain products. Behind this market is the Porcellino (translated as the piglet) a brass pig. Apparently it is customary to rub his snout for good luck. Another legend tells visitors to place a coin in the pig's mouth and if it falls in the slot below it guarantees that you will return to Florence. I neither rubbed the nose nor fed the piggy but I did get a good shot of Pauline sitting next to the pig. Great material for some obvious jokes in the future!

We bought some cheap gifts, sat for an hour on a bench having found a couple of our coach party and then trudged back to the coach picking us up outside McDonalds. We went back to the hotel for a meal at 8:45pm - the lasagna was lovely but the cold vegetables left something to be desired. I think most of us went to bed early.

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Day Seven

You know you've been in Italy too long when you wake up and actually begin to look forward to a continental breakfast! Anyway for what it's worth, the croissants were quite nice at breakfast. The coach trundled on towards Rome, taking us past the Etruscan cities of Ort and Orvietta. The word 'Etruscan' relates to an inhabitant of Etruria which apparently was an ancient country in central Italy assimilated by the Romans by about 200 BC.

We crossed the River Tiber a number of times, stopped at a service station for some 'Porchetta' and travelled onto Rome, meeting up with Romano, our guide to Religious Rome. This tour was fantastic, partly due to the humour of Romano. He also stopped to let us take pictures which was great. We were taken to the Pantheon in the Piazza della Rotonda, an awe-inspiring domed temple to the gods which became a Christian church in 609! Romano suggested we touch the huge bronze doors and then consider that we were touching something that centuries before Romans had touched. I'd never really thought of that before!

Inside the temple, the oculus opens the ancient temple to the skies and is an absolutely fantastic photo opportunity. Try not to look directly at the sun though if you go at midday. Just point your camera and try and get the sun just poking across the rim of the opening! Great picture! The Piazza itself was filled with gelaterias, pubs, pizzerias, restaurants, and clubs. It's is apparently a 'happening' place at night.

We wandered into the Piazza Navona, a beautiful square with three fantastic fountains. Possibly the most spectacular fountain was the Fontana dei Fiumi, featuring symbolic representations of the rivers Ganges, Danube, Plate and Nile clinging to an artificial rock face. This was apparently created by Bernini, who Romano stated was to Rome what Christopher Wren was to London. The centerpiece is an obelisk which is thousands of years old. We also saw the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone which is another Bernini work. (I missed the explanation as I was taking pictures of the fountain.) I took a picture of Via dei Soldati but I'm not sure why now. I either liked the look of the buildings or just had an itchy trigger finger.

We were then taken to Vatican City for an audio tour. If I ever say that a church is just a church remind me of St. Peter's Basillica! If you have never been there, then you must!! Even if you have no interest in architecture (me!), or religion (me!), or historical anecdotes (uhhhh me again...sorry!), I defy you not to be blown away by this place! Words can't express it so I am not even going to try. Look at the pictures I've taken below - even they don't do this justice.

We returned to the coach and to the hotel, having enjoyed the tour immensely!! We were taken to the Hotel Pineta Palace which was the best hotel I had been in. My first balcony, a double bed and chocolates on the bed. To top it all off the food was excellent! We took a tour of Rome by night, stopping to take pictures by the Trevi Fountain, located in Piazza di Trevi. We had a quick walk around this place which was incredibly busy. Romano warned us that this is a haven for pick-pockets though so we kept a wary eye on those around us. We returned to the hotel positively glowing.

The only negative? England lost their world cup match on penalties and were ceremoniously booted out.

Interesting Fact

Fact 1: Florence - which mean 'Town of Flowers' sits on the river Arno and is in Tuscany.

Fact 2: Florence was founded by the Romans in the first century BC.

Fact 3: You will find Franciscan and Dominican churches situated at the opposite ends of Florence.

Fact 4: Although many of the older bridges were destroyed in World War II the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), built in 1345 was one of the few bridges to survive.

Fact 5: Rome is referred to as the 'City of Souls.'

Fact 6:Legend has it you will return to Rome if you throw a coin into the water. You should toss it over your shoulder with your back to the fountain.

Fact 7:The Pantheon is 43.3 metres in diameter and was constructed by pouring concrete over a wooden framework.

Holiday pictures (64)

01: (link)  Florence - Santa Rabello church

02: (link)  Florence - Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

03: (link)  Florence - Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

04: (link)  Florence - Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

05: (link)  Florence - 'The Last Judgement' decoration under the Dome inside Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

06: (link)  Florence - Equestrian statue of Niccolò da Tolentino inside Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

07: (link)  Florence - Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

08: (link)  Florence - Piazza della Repubblica - Triumph Arch

09: (link)  Florence - Piazza della Repubblica

10: (link)  Florence - Pauline and the Porcollino

11: (link)  Florence - Statue of Perseus With the Head of Medusa

12: (link)  Florence - Piazza degli Uffizi

13: (link)  Florence - Beneath the arches of Piazza degli Uffizi

14: (link)  Florence - Beneath the arches of Piazza degli Uffizi

15: (link)  Florence - Ponte Vecchio

16: (link)  Florence - Pauline, Vicki by Ponte Vecchio

17: (link)  Florence - Pauline, Wendy by Ponte Vechio

18: (link)  Florence - Piazza dei Giudici near Piazza della Signori

19: (link)  Florence - Via Calzaiouli

20: (link)  Florence - Making way down side street

21: (link)  Florence - Parked mopeds

22: (link)  Florence - Bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I and Fountain of Neptune

23: (link)  Florence - Piazza della Signora

24: (link)  Florence - Fountain of Neptune

25: (link)  Florence - Statue of David

26: (link)  Florence - Statue of David with Palazzo Vecchio behind

27: (link)  Florence - Statue of Hercules and Cacus

28: (link)  Florence - Basilica di Santa Croce

29: (link)  Florence - Margaret, Roger, Pauline, Vicki chilling

30: (link)  Florence - Roger, Margaret, Vicki walking

31: (link)  Rome - The Pantheon

32: (link)  Rome - The Pantheon Oculus

33: (link)  Rome - Obelisk viewed through Pantheon columns

34: (link)  Rome - Obelisk on fountain and Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda

35: (link)  Rome - The Pantheon columns

36: (link)  Rome - The Pantheon columns

37: (link)  Rome - Fontana dei Fiumi in Piazza della Rotonda

38: (link)  Rome - Fontana dei Fiumi in Piazza della Rotonda

39: (link)  Rome - Vickie by Fontana del Nettuno in Piazza della Rotonda

40: (link)  Rome - Vickie by Fontana del Nettuno in Piazza della Rotonda

41: (link)  Rome - Fontana del Nettuno in Piazza della Rotonda

42: (link)  Rome - Wendy by Fontana del Nettuno in Piazza della Rotonda

43: (link)  Rome - Via from Piazza della Rotonda

44: (link)  Rome - St Peter's across the Tibre

45: (link)  Rome - St Peter's across the Tibre

46: (link)  Vatican City - St Peter's Bacilica

47: (link)  Vatican City - St Peter's Bacilica (external)

48: (link)  Vatican City - St Peter Square

49: (link)  Vatican City - St Peter Basilica - interior

50: (link)  Vatican City - La Pieta of Michelangelo

51: (link)  Vatican City - St Peter Basilica - interior

52: (link)  Vatican City - Top of St Peter's Chair in Cathedra Petri

53: (link)  Vatican City - Interior of St. Peter's Dome

54: (link)  Vatican City - Mosaic copy of painting on altar

55: (link)  Vatican City - St Peter Basilica - interior

56: (link)  Vatican City - Ornate plate beneath which popes are buried

57: (link)  Vatican City - St Peter Basilica - interior

58: (link)  Vatican City - St Peter Basilica - interior

59: (link)  Vatican City - St Peter Basilica - interior

60: (link)  Vatican City - Swiss Guards

61: (link)  Vatican City - Pauline, Vicki with Swiss Guards

62: (link)  Vatican City - St Peter Square

63: (link)  Rome - Trevi Fountain

64: (link)  Rome - Trevi Fountain

65: (link)  Rome - Hotel Pineta Palace

Pictures taken on later visit Jan 07 (58)

01: (link)  Florence Baptistery - Gates of Paradise

02: (link)  Florence Baptistery - Gates of Paradise in detail

03: (link)  Florence Baptistery - Gates of Paradise in detail

04: (link)  Florence Baptistery - Gates of Paradise in detail

05: (link)  Florence Baptistery - Gates of Paradise in detail

06: (link)  Florence Baptistery - Gates of Paradise in detail

07: (link)  Detail under portal to Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

08: (link)  'The Last Judgement' decoration under the Dome inside Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

09: (link)  Entry details into Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

10: (link)  'The Last Judgement' decoration under the Dome inside Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

11: (link)  Panoramic view from top of  Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

12: (link)  Panoramic view from top of  Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

13: (link)  Panoramic view from top of  Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

14: (link)  Panoramic view from top of  Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

15: (link)  Entry instruction to top of  Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

16: (link)  Streets of Florence

17: (link)  Basilica di Santa Croce

18: (link)  Streets of Florence

19: (link)  Florence

20: (link)  Florence

21: (link)  Florence

22: (link)  Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

23: (link)  Streets of Florence

24: (link)  Streets of Florence

25: (link)  Florence

26: (link)  Florence

27: (link)  Florence

28: (link)  Florentine Building

29: (link)  Street of Florence

30: (link)  Florence

31: (link)  Inside the Basilica di Santa Croce

32: (link)  Inside the Basilica di Santa Croce

33: (link)  Inside the Basilica di Santa Croce

34: (link)  Inside the Basilica di Santa Croce

35: (link)  Inside the Basilica di Santa Croce

36: (link)  Inside the Basilica di Santa Croce

37: (link)  Inside the Basilica di Santa Croce

38: (link)  Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

39: (link)  Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

40: (link)  Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

41: (link)  Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

42: (link)  Ponte Vecchio

43: (link)  Ponte Vecchio

44: (link)  Ponte Vecchio

45: (link)  Ponte Vecchio

46: (link)  Florence

47: (link)  Florence

48: (link)  Florence

49: (link)  Florence

50: (link)  Florence

51: (link)  Florence

52: (link)  Florence

53: (link)  Florence

54: (link)  Streets of Florence

55: (link)  Streets of Florence

56: (link)  Streets of Florence

57: (link)  Streets of Florence

58: (link)  Florence

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