Florence

We weren’t going to come to Florence. The plan was always to head straight from Rome to Venice, however the advantage of having no set itinerary is that we can make it up as we go along.

The train from Rome to Florence was a joy; it’s great not to have to bother with airport security and we were door to door within a couple of hours, we (again) seemed to score the best room at our hotel, probably down to the bump, and we were given advice from the bubbly receptionist about what to do in Florence.

Depending on what your interests are, you could probably spend a couple of weeks in Florence alone. It’s the home of Michaelangelo, Rafael and probably some other turtles; some naked bloke called David lives here; there are day trips to many surrounding areas such as Pisa to be had and it is the place where esteemed artist (and our next door neighbour) Harold Riley spent some time studying.

We’ve tried culture, honestly, however standing in a queue for a couple of hours just to see a statue isn’t something that appeals. It’s the sort of thing we’d do just to be able to say we had done it, and that’s when you start to become a bit of a twat. That being said, if the works of Michaelangelo (etc) appeal to you then Florence is somewhere you should definitely go and soak it all up.

So, for us, a couple of days was enough. Florence is simply a gorgeous city ideally suited to taking a deep breath after being in the capital and the first thing we did was to take the bus up to Piazzia Michaelangelo for a breathtaking panoramic view of the city at sunset. This Piazzia is adjacent to the artist’s house and attracts hundreds of visitors for the setting of the sun every day. Look one way and you have a five-star view, look the the and the greasy Italians selling all kinds of tat are apparent to cater for the masses.

Our only full day was spent taking in the major attractions of the city, many of which are visible from the picture. You can find relative solitude in Florence in cafes just off the beaten track, however around the highlights you are generally tripping over middle aged Americans who think they’re Italian and have bought the atrocious tracksuit to prove it. It’s like Goodfellas at times.

Food is going to play a major role in many of these blog posts. Tuscan cuisine was something I was looking forward to about this trip and was a factor in deciding whether to come to Florence. It didn’t disappoint, the highlight was a family run restaurant where we got three courses, Chianti & espresso for €16 a head. They don’t bother with menus and by the time we left there was a sizeable queue of locals waiting to get in.

There might be a lot of stuff here I don’t appreciate, but there’s plenty for oafs like me to get along with very well.

First Stop: Rome.

Travelling on this trip will not be a problem, compared to our previous adventures the two hour flight direct from Manchester to Rome was a doddle, especially as we had house-sitter Findlay to take us to the airport. We were in our hostel by 13:00, a comfortable place about ten minutes on the bus from the centre of Rome.

We immediately remembered why we went down the hostel route instead hotels. When you arrive the staff are ridiculously welcoming and sat down with us taking us through the sights of Rome, suggested itineraries, transport links and local restaurants – all this whilst offering us a free coffee. Anyone who thinks staying in hotels on trips like this is the way to go is mistaken.

We’d had a really heavy weekend thanks to the Fodens throwing a great party on Friday which spilled into an all day session on the Saturday. A nap was in order. This nap turned into the best sleep I’d had in days and we rose four hours later to explore Rome.

In total, we were in Rome for three nights and took in the major highlights, sometimes with the aid of a guide which can really enhance a trip. Without it you find yourself staring at walls and statues without ever knowing what they represent. Spending €4 on a guide is also a great way to jump the massive queues at the major attractions.

Rome is unashamedly historic, narrow cobbled streets and a third rate metro system are the prices they willingly pay to keep these monuments in place and the constant attention needed to keep buildings such as the Colosseum standing is astonishing (built 1,932 years ago).

Colosseum

One thing worthy of note is that we appear to be on a VIP tour of Rome; pregnant women are treated like royalty. We have had examples of people falling over each other to give up seats on a bus, we seem to have no trouble getting the best room in our accommodation, special seats are reserved in the Sixteen Chapel and, you know the rule about covering shoulders highly religious places? It doesn’t seem to apply to pregnant women. There was one couple on our tour of The Vatican who managed to trump us by bringing a four month old. Bastards.

Finally for this post, the food. I’m a huge fan of Italian cooking and have been sampling the local stuff with scant regard for my health. A decent meal for two consisting of two courses and a bottle of red sets us back approximately €40, you can find decent stuff much cheaper if needed.

It was very hot and busy in Rome, we managed our way through it and saw everything we planned so we found accommodation in Florence and boarded a train Tuscany bound. I’ll have more for you in a day or so.

EuroTrip 2011

Hello loyal Subscriber(s). It’s been 336 days since my last post; this hasn’t been through lack of getting on a plane: since our Southeast Asia trip we’ve had ski trips to Whistler, Tignes & St Anton; two visits to Dubai, weekend breaks to Lisbon & Munich and a few trips to Vegas.

It’s now time to get back on the road, albeit quite briefly. We fly to Rome on 12 September. From there we don’t really have a plan, we hope to head north to Venice and eventually end up on the French coast. We’ll probably be away for about three weeks – not the longest of trips but an adventure nonetheless. It’s going to be a fairly relaxed tour, due on no small part to the increasing size of Pezza’s belly and the hoopla of moving house that will follow shortly thereafter.

We’ve done little research but anticipate working our way up to Venice from Rome and making use of budget accommodation, perhaps with a splurge option being thrown in there at some point.

Finally, from a Tech point of view, I’ll be leaving the laptop at home and making do with my shiny new toy, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Should I have posted more over the last year? Probably, we’ve had a few very memorable trips worthy of note and I hope to be able to document the craziness of St Anton, the fastest roller coaster in the world & the sharp side of Dubai Marina, flyng First class with BA and the best group holiday possible in Las Vegas.

See you in Italy.

2010 Catch Up #2: Seattle & Vegas

March 2010

Not my fault. I was lying in bed one night, possibly drunk, and I received an email informing me of a British Airways sale. It was always our intention to go over and see Stuart & Cazzie more than once and we decided instead of meeting them in Whistler again we’d go [...]

2010 Catch Up #1: Whistler and Vancouver

January & February 2010.

My older, wiser, greyer brother and Caroline spent the autumn touring North America in a RV before settling down for the winter season in Whistler.

We were weighing up New Year but, frankly, it’s not worth it when you can go a few weeks later for half the price. We [...]

Weekly(ish) Photo: Salford Quays Jan 2010

This used to be a miserable view. The top left of the picture is the MediaCity:UK site which will be home to, among other things, the BBC’s new Salford Quays home next year. Before we went to Tignes this was a horrible looking building site and one of the reasons we got away for [...]

Weekly Photo: Tignes 2009

We make a return to the Weekly Photo following our recent trip.

The snow has begun to fall in the Alps and we’ve booked our first winter trip of the season returning to Tignes in March.

This photo is of the Aiguille Percée which loosly translates as ‘The Eye of the Needle’. It is [...]

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70 Days 2 Continents 7 Countries

26,883 Miles by plane 777 Miles by bus/coach (we avoided overnighters) 693 Miles by train (average 1 cockroach per 48 miles) 183 Miles by car 192 Miles by ferry 100 Miles by sailboat 0.5 Miles by motorbike (before we crashed in Hoi An) 28,828 Miles in total (1.16 times [...]

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There was one good reason not to go to Sydney, we’ve been twice before in the last three years. Fortunately for us, however, there are many good reasons to keep going back – it’s on a very exclusive list of cities that I would love to move to one day, the only other that springs [...]

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It was a tough call after Airlie Beach, do we rush around and have a few nights exploring Fraser Island or do we go to Byron Bay?  We first visited Byron in November 2007 and vowed to return and with the little time we have here in Australia we thought that a few nights rushing [...]