Saturday, November 28, 2009

Italy (Day 5) – Rome

Bookmark and Share
From Vatican City, we headed to Rome which we passed by Piazza Venezia. Near Piazza Venezia, there’s the huge monument called National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, to honour the first king in Italy. The bus did not stop for us to have a photo shot here, such a sad moment.

After 10 minutes of bus ride, we reached the famous tourist spot in Rome, the Colosseum, an open-air venue mainly for spectator sports and gladiator games. Though the structure has fallen into ruins by an earthquake in 847, it is an imposing and beautiful sight in Rome today. Surprisingly, this amphitheater is capable to cater 50,000 spectators. The exterior of the Colosseum, showing the partially intact outer wall (left) and the mostly intact inner wall (right)

Inside view of Colosseum from outside the fence.

Outside the Colosseum, you can take photo with the ancient Roman soldier for a small fee.

Due to limited time given by the tour guide, we did not enter the interior arena of the Colosseum. Kind of a bit regret. Below is the photo taken from the vicinity of Colosseum.

Mobile van selling snacks

Next we headed to an Italian restaurant, La Baia for pizza. I’m not sure if this is the norm way Italian serve pizza to customer. We got a whole thin crust pizza and an appetizer. There's no topping on the pizza, it's just plain cheese and tomato. I thought it’s a lot, but it’s not. Most of us can finish it with ease. I wish to have another piece, but no unless I pay extra :-(

A stone statue on the city wall opposite the restaurant

Our next tourist spot to Trevi Fountain began right after our hearty lunch meal. The bus stopped and we had to walk to the fountain. The Trevi Fountain is the most famous and beautiful fountain in Rome together with the impressive monument. You will see many tourists sitting on the steps surrounding the fountain enjoying the scenery and the smashing sound of the fountain. It’s just a relaxing moment to enjoy. The central figure of the fountain is Neptune, god of the sea. He is riding a chariot in the shape of a shell, pulled by two sea horses guided by a Triton. On the left hand side of Neptune is a statue representing Abundance, the statue on the right represents Salubrity.

The water at the bottom of the fountain represents the sea. Legend said you will return to Rome if you throw a coin into the water and should toss it over your shoulder with your back to the fountain. My wife and I threw the coin into the fountain, but the legend never says when the wish will come true. Probably I did not throw a Euro coins, sigh…shouldn’t be so cheapskate.

On way back to our bus, we bumped into a mobile van selling fresh fruits. Look tempting, but kind of expensive.

I didn’t know Pinocchio is from Rome. Pinocchio is known for having a long nose that becomes longer when he is under stress especially when telling a lie.

While waiting for the bus, I saw an impressive tunnel in the city of Rome.

After we on boarded the bus, it’s started to drizzle till we reached The Piazza di Spagna, which is one of the most popular meeting places in Rome. One of the highlights here will be the Spanish Steps. It is the longest and widest staircase in Europe, with 138 steps leading to the Trinita dei Monti church at the top. The steps can get crowded with people sitting on the steps if it’s not drizzle that day.

At the foot of the Spanish Steps is the Fontana della Barcaccia. The small boat design was inspired by the flooding of the Tevere in 1598, when a small boat stranded here after the water subsided.

The tall column at the square, Colonna dell'Immacolata was erected in 1857 and now topped with a statue of Virgin Mary.

Though it’s drizzling, we took the opportunity to climb up the stairs to the top and have a nice view over Rome.

With ample of time, we took a stroll at the surrounding shops and to my regret, it has become an expensive affair. My wife bumped into a Louis Vuitton boutique and decided to take a look. I’m so hesitated to go in, so I took a picture of the stair inside the shop which attracted me. At the end, I gave in.

While browsing the bags, my wife decided to try few bags which served by a Japanese promoter lady for almost an hour. The way she served is so professional and friendly, no obligation if you don’t buy. Unlike in my country, they will give you a dull look and mumbling in their heart, if you have no intention to buy, get out from the shop. She bought the Noe collection bag and the price here is definitely cheaper according to my wife, even more after minus the GST tax. I told my wife, this bag will be all her special occasion celebration gifts for the next 20 years. I guess she's so desperate to have the bag and she!!!

After the whole day of sigh-seeing, eating and shopping (most expensive item I ever bought for a single item), we headed to the Chinese restaurant nearby for dinner before heading back to the hotel, Cristoforo Colombo. We quickly took the shower and packed our belonging. Tonight will be our last night in Italy. On that night, we went to the nearby cafe we can find (around few hundreds meters walk) for a drink and enjoy the music. We left that around midnight. Wish I could be a little longer in Italy.

The next day at the airport, feeling so reluctant to go home

On the plane, I ordered a ratatouille dish, which is a French dish served with rice, potatoes and some veges.

Good bye ITALY…see you soon, if my wish at Trevi Fountain comes true.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Italy (Day 5) – Vatican City

Bookmark and Share
After having our breakfast at the hotel, my wife and I got into the bus to Vatican City. A territory enclosed by stone walled or buildings within the city of Rome. It’s the smallest country and population in the world. How ironical. At least, something to put into my travel profile. The city is ruled by the bishop of Rome; guess who…it’s the Pope who is the head of state and head of government of this city. On our way to Saint Peter’s Square, I saw this impressive round structure was once a castle called Castle San Angelo. Today, it's a museum and a place to explore.

View of Saint Peter’s Basilica from the nearby street, unfortunately the weather that day was not so good, it’s was drizzling. So we literally have to put the umbrella aside while asking someone to snap a photo of us.

On the square, lies the amazing covered wings curve structure of 100++ columns each on both side. Try to notice, that there were a total of 140 Colonnade Saint statues on the top of the columns.

This obelisk was from Egypt and it’s about 25m high. It is also a sun dial, its shadows mark noon over the signs of the zodiac in the white marble disks in the paving of the square.

One of the fountains in the square, there was another one built symmetry on the other side

Finally I managed to get a full view of the Saint Peter’s Basilica with the dome

Basilica with the Statue of St. Paul in the foreground

There another Statue of St. Peter on the left hand side

Apostolic Palace which is actually a group of buildings including the Papal Apartment

This is the Papal Apartment which occupies the top floor of the Apostolic Palace. The top two right windows are the study and bedroom of the pope. On Sundays at noon, the pope usually appears at the second window from the right to pray the Angelus and bless the crowd in the Square.

Swiss guards in their traditional uniform. They were recruited by Pope in the early days and still continue to protect the Pope as a personal bodyguard. Swiss Guards at this entrance will let you pass if you have business in the Vatican, or if you have reservations for the Scavi tour.

Before entering the basilica, we need to undergo a security checking on our belongings on the right entrance. After the security checking, you can rent an audio tour of the basilica. While waiting for my wife, I went to the other side and notice there’s also Swiss Guards at this entrance. I wished I could go nearer, but I can’t.

Here are some of the photos I took while inside the basilica. Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It is the symbolic "Mother church" of the Catholic Church and is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites. Below is the photos interior of the basilica.

Lot’s of time and research have been done to identify the altars and monuments of each photo.

Altar of Pieta

Altar of St Jerome

Below the Altar of St Jerome is the body of John XXII who died in 1963 and you can see the face clearly

Altar of Falsehood

Altar of Immaculate Conception

The Papal Altar and rising above it is the Baldacchino

A closer look at the Baldacchino, a type of canopy supported by poles

Monument of Leo XII

Monument of Benedict XIV

Monument of Alexandar VII

Monument of Pius VIII

Monument of Innocent XI

The bronze statue of Saint Peter

St Andrew statue at the Entrance to the Sacristy of St Peter

View of the dome inside the basilica

Confession area

While waiting for our tour guide at the square, I bumped into the priest and nun.

From the square, we walked quite a distance to our bus, but at least we managed to have a good view of Vatican City.

Next up on our trip will be out of Vatican City and heading to Rome.