Italian Dreams Part I: Milan and Rome

Ahhh reminiscing.  Back to a simpler time when the only thing we had to think about was the pronunciation of “due caffè al banco per favore” (two coffees at the counter, please) and how many layers of socks to put on.


In February 2013 Cameron and I used nearly all our savings and annual leave hours to go on a 3 1/2 week holiday to Italy.  We got lost nearly everyday, had limited access to the internet, and even more limited language skills.  It was magical and cold.  I think it was on this holiday that we both developed an addiction to coffee.  In the spirit of reminiscing, I thought I would share some of the photos from our trip- going in the order we traveled.  We began our Italian adventure in Milan.

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I love this picture- it was actually the very first photo I took in Italy.  We got off the metro stop, looking for the ‘Duomo’ we’d heard about, and weren’t sure where we should be looking.  We turned the corner and this magnificent structure came out at us.  The Duomo in Milan is absolutely breathtaking and awe inspiring. This was one of the only clear days when we were in Milan, and we were fortunate enough to be able to get such a wonderful shot.  There were SO many pigeons by the way.

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This is the view from the top (or near top) of the Duomo!  We had to climb like a million stairs to see this, but it was well worth it.  The ‘Gothic’ style of the Duomo in Milan is quite rare of cathedrals throughout Italy (note: ‘duomo’ in this situation means ‘Italian cathedral’, apparently it can mean ‘house’ in some other contexts).

Although we saw the outside of the Duomo by ourselves, we thought it would be a good idea to get a tour.  I ended up booking a walking tour of Milan through http://www.viator.com that not only included a trip inside the Duomo, but also all around Milan to see the main attractions.  Obviously, this included seeing ‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo Da Vinci.  We went through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (pictured below), and also to a few other spots.  The tour guide was very passionate about Milan, and you could tell she LOVED her city.

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This is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II- one of the oldest shopping malls in the world.  The architecture was stunning- just look at the ceiling!!  Apparently (and I don’t know if this is true), the design of the mall was so unique at the time it was built (around the mid 1800s), that the designer jumped off the roof of the building because he couldn’t stand the criticism.  I think many people say he fell by accident…
The shops were gorgeous here (LOTS of Prada!), but I only wish we’d been able to afford a few luxury items!

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You’re meant to put your heel on the bull’s *ahem* ‘bits’, and spin around for a year of good luck.  Yes, of course I did it!

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This is a reproduction of Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” painting in an old convent in Italy- the Santa Maria delle Grazie.  The real deal is on site too (of course… it’s painted directly onto the wall… i.e., not really ‘moveable’) but it’s in a totally climate controlled room.  They only let like 20 people max in at a predetermined time, and you have to go through one set of glass airtight doors first from the outside to a little chamber, and then once they seal again, you can go into another set of airtight doors where the painting is.  It is a huge painting in what was essentially the cafeteria in a convent.  The little doorway in the painting is where the people cut a hole in the wall to make it easier to bring food from the kitchen to the eating area.  Clearly they had no idea just how famous this painting would be 400 years later!  PS.  You also aren’t allowed to talk in the room where the painting is.  The change in temperature etc from people talking makes the paint work decay faster!

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To finish off Milan, here is Cameron with a tiny tiny tiny 2 wheeled truck.  SO CUTE!


After being in Milan for 5 days (the first of which was just spent sleeping to catch up from the 40+ hours travel time we had!), the next stop on our Italian holiday was Rome.  We had gone through Flight Centre to book our holiday for the most part (accommodation and flights), and it also included a tour here.  Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend the tour, as it was really expensive (about $2000 if I remember correctly for the two of us together), and I feel that I would have had better luck in booking the various parts of it separately- like I did in Florence (more on that later!!).  The tour was two days in Rome, a day trip to Napels and Pompeii, then through to Sorrento for two days, a day trip to the islands of Capri and Ana Capri, and then ended back in Rome.

One of the best parts of Rome was something I booked separately- a private tour of the Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica!  It was a local tour guide and no lines!  Luckily, we were in the Vatican City only a few days prior to Pope John Paul II stepping down- we missed all the crowds and craziness (phew!).  Most parts of the actual organised tour were a bit of a let down-especially the tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum.  With the latter, we were the only couple that spoke English on the bus tour, and everyone else spoke Spanish.  Normally this would not be an issue, but the tour guide had to say everything in Spanish, and then repeat it all in English- meaning that by the time it got around to English, we had passed the site they were referring to… Also, we were only in the Colosseum for about 10 minutes, and I would have liked to explore with a little more freedom.  Apparently you can do a tour of the underground tunnels where they used to keep the lions etc (remember that in ‘Gladiator‘ ?!).  I’d definitely like to see that.

BUT we still had an amazing time, and here are some pictures from this leg of the journey.  Just a reminder- Rome, then Naples/ Pompeii, then Sorrento, and finally the island of Capri.

First up- ROME!

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These two pictures (above and below) are of the Roman Forum.  This is the ‘ancient’ section of Rome- it contains the ruins of several important government buildings.  This bit is fenced off, and the public are not allowed to just stroll on down to see the ruins up close.  It was cool to imagine what it might have looked like back some 2,000 years ago- just amazing that these structures are still standing! 

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I LOVE this picture of the Colosseum!  I was able to quickly snap this shot as we were leaving on the bus.  Many might think that the car driving past ruined the classic photo of the historical Colosseum, but I personally think the combination of ancient and modern is just fascinating.  Perfect timing and a perfect time of day.

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Here’s Cam inside the main part of the Colosseum’s arena.  They have built a newly constructed partial floor so that you can see what it would have looked like in use, but left the rest exposed so you can still see the passages where they kept the animals… cool!  Like I said, apparently you can do tours of those passages.

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Here’s the two of us trying to take a quick selfie before our tour bus left again- with the sun right in our eyes!  Note that I still had braces here.

Here’s the tour I booked separately through http://www.viator.com
It wasn’t actually ‘private’- it was advertised as a small group.  But it was just the two of us and one American couple.  It was about $85 Australian dollars each, and was fabulous.  This is the same company we did the ‘Last Supper Tour’ with in Milan.  I will provide more information about these tours at the bottom of this post.

photo 1This is Cameron and I in the Vatican City.  We are mid-way through a tour of the Vatican museums.  The building in the background is St Peter’s Basilica.  Because they want it to be very quiet inside the museums, we were all given ‘whisper’ headphones.  Using these, the tour guide could speak at a quiet talking level and we could hear her perfectly.  She didn’t have to shout to point out any of the sights or explain the artworks- we could hear her even from the next room.  So awesome!

**WARNING**
I took some photos inside the Sistine Chapel.  You’re not meant to.  It’s against the law (only because they want to protect the beautiful artwork- not for religious reasons… there are many published pictures of the artwork).  BUT I couldn’t help it.  It was gorgeous, and I took a couple quick iPhone photos without the flash… but if you’re really against me doing that, you may want to scroll really quickly past the next two photos.  Because I am going to show them to you…

NOW.

photo 2I know- right?!  Amazing.  I wish I could remember all the wonderful details about how long it actually took for Michaelangelo to paint the ceiling- I’m thinking it was something like four years, but feel free to Google it.  The most famous painting on the ceiling is ‘The Creation of Adam’- which of course, you can’t really see in these pictures… What you CAN see however, is Michaelangelo’s other work- ‘The Last Judgement”- which is the big blue painting on the far wall.  It took Michaelangelo like six years to paint, but because he included so many naked people, it was actually someone’s job to go back and ‘cover up’ their bits.  I suppose it was 500 years ago… 

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Here’s a picture looking out from the steps at St Peter’s Basilica.  I love how the light looks in this photo- it was so freezing, and the picture really seems to capture that perfectly.  Right after this, we ran over to a huge lineup of taxis, and I tried to haggle prices… eek.                     photo 4

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Last photo for Rome.  This is at the Trevi Fountain.  This is probably the only super cliché thing we did while in Italy… We totally threw a coin over our shoulder into the fountain.  It was lovely!  The fountain was amazing.  Here’s a close up.

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SO that covers Milan & half of the Rome tour.  We still have Napels/ Pompeii, Sorrento, and Capri to cover in the tour, as well as FLORENCE (!!), VENICE, and VERONA.  All this reminiscing is making me a little sad.. hahah I’ll save the rest for PART II tomorrow.

Until then, Ciao!

xo Karly and Cameron

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