Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Rome 2009

I am finally writing about my 11d trip to Italy. Yeah, it's short i know but what to expect if you are going on tour? :)  There are some benefits of seeing the best of Italy in 11 days but i would like to emphasize that it would be "some" of the best in Italy. Most you spend is about 2-3 hours in the town and then 4-5 hours drive to the next stop. I will do free and easy next time - thank you very much. :)

Italy was not the original choice of destination, it was Spain. However some people of the tour pulled out from Spain ( for a cheaper november 25th tour of spain - hah! good luck to you .. .everything will be dark faster etc... ) so i had a choice of New Zealand or Italy. I picked Italy in an instant. ... Dad gave me the choice anyway. Hahahaha. Only thing i didn't like is that damn long flight and stop over in Dubai using Air Emirates. I hate that that airlines because of the tight seats and i have strange feeling i will be using this airlines a lot in future.

Anyway, skip the rant on airways, it won't work anyway ( Tony didn't see my complain on AA ) ... Let's get straight to the point. Rome & Vatican city was the first stop.  I believe we spent like 1 and 1/2 days in Rome and Vatican City but the actual time wandering in Rome is about a good  1 hour so. Ah. Tours.

Once we landed in rome, we waited about 1 hour for the bus driver who was pretty unreliable ( resulted in our tour guide changing drivers the next day ) and after when he finally came to pick us up, we quickly deposited our bags to our hotel nearby and rushed of to Vatican City. It was a Sunday by the way. Rome and Vatican City was extremely quiet and most of the shops ( sob ) were closed at about 4pm  Rome time.

Vatican City ( or also known as the HOLY See ) to my suprise is actually within Rome, about 20 minutes drive from my hotel and like 5 minutes out of Rome itself. And it's the smallest possible state in the world. This is where, the pope calls home. ( And the scene of a lot of hollywood movies - think ... Angels and Demons ). It's also one of Unesco's heritage site and the size of the place amazes you. Maybe it's the architecture and all but the first thing when you walk up to Saint Peter's square is go " waaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh " ( that would be my expression lah ). The place is wide and airy and with many people doing their site seeing.

St Peter's Basilica is open to publics on Sundays for visits as well and the queue for both local and foreign tourists were long. Most of us got to wear those fancy headset thingy, where the tour guide will speak from and give you a description of the place. Part of the reason is, in the Basilica itself, it's so large you don't expect the guide to be shouting to a large group of tourist. Also Sunday services are running, so ... er no one wants to hear a narrative of the history of the Church during Mass.

The security at the Vatican is pretty tight. Before you enter the Basilica itself, every thing is "scanned". By the way, everyone should know they have their own police force in the Vatican City and they are specifically from Switzerland. And they dress in funny costumes * grin * .. Only because it is designed in the times of Leonardo da vincci and all. ( Kinda looks like how they used to dress, 100s of years ago ) And let it be said they take their job seriously. One trigger happy tourist got too close to the no entry zone only to be given a stern warning to stand back.

So, who watched Angels & Demons? Remember how they used to burn paper with different color smoke to inform people outside of the status ... well actually it really happens! Till today, if the church would like to communicate important announcements to the masses outside, people still rely on looking at the color of the smoke coming out from Vatican city.

Ok. So i cannot resist the pun on Twilight here in the above picture.

I only regretted we were not able to go to the Sistine Chapel as we rushed off to visit Trevi fountain. Italy got dark about like 5pm- And turns pitch black ( well not really but dark lah ) by 6pm itself, as if it was 8pm or so. And Trevi fountain ( ah so famous, this place ) was PACKED to the brim! I was suprised. I expected a small crowd but WOW. Large group of people sitting there. But not throwing coins in the fountain though and blocking others in taking pictures of that area. Trevi fountain is made famous by the song / film "3 coins in a fountain" and making it a popular spot for tourist to visit. I ended up taking pictures in B & W rather than color - forgot to bring Tripod - i thought we'd be visiting the place in broad day light!  I got conned!

Since this is a tour - we definitely did not hit the Spanish steps or anything like this. Don't ask :(.  Oh by the way, If you are going Free and Easy, there are 2 shops you should check out near the Trevi fountain - 1 being the Gelato near the fountain area. The one on the left hand side (if the fountain's left is behind you ) is pretty awesome especially the Tiramisu flavor and 2) the shoe shop near the Trevi fountain area. It was there when my dad came to Italy for his hols, a good 30 years ago and it's still around! My ex-colleague swears the shoes are comfortable and nice. So you lucky people out there, going by F & E, try to check out this places.

Dinner that night was at a local italian restaurant ( of course ) that served Pizza.. Ah poor us, we thought it was pizza to share, but each one of us were served a 9 inch pizza to our horror! Actually the horror stemmed from the fact we not only had pizza, but we had a rather large piece of salmon to contend with after the pizza... O_O - there is only so much this tiny stomach can hold. :P I am quite sure the other people on the trip also had the same expression when they saw the pizza coming in big plates.

Definitely, pizza in Italy is really the good stuff and suffice to say original. It's thin crust, slightly burnt on the bottom but enough mozzarella to pack a punch. I must say i love the taste of melting mozzarella. And it has real pork shavings on the pizza that tasted pretty heavenly in my opinion. Only thing is, i had like 7 more large slices to go *_*.  Actually, if you ask me to come back for pizza here, i don't mind. But i think in Italy most pizza are not too bad.

After struggling through the pizza which i finished 5 slices, ... er  our tour guide said there's more and were promptly given a slice of Salmon. I could have fainted you know... -_________-  but... the good thing was - it was NOT so since. Actually i am shocked this was so dry.  I actually called it "Old Salmon" - it's rather over cooked - See?  So flaky that it was not funny. Didn't finish it as well.

After the fish... dessert came along. I never like prune tarts and not about to start liking them - Also did not finish. This is turning out to be a not so good food experience in Italy!

Anyway, those who would like to try the Pizza ( or to avoid this restaurant after not so raving reviews), it's at:

La Baia
Ristorante- Pizzeria.
Via Sardegnam 61/63 - 000187 Roma.

I also would like to note that maybe because it is a tour, some food are not up to par due to mass productions. So... hopefully the next few days food, does not "fail" spectacularly.

Those who would like to see the full flickr link to the pics - please click here!

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