Italy 意大利

Poll: Italy?
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Yes, I'm going...
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Yes, I had been there.
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mmm.... something else
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Good morning valuebuddies,
Waking up to another cool morning with birds chirping happily in the woods.

What a fantastic feeling.

I am very grateful for all the help valuebuddies given to me all these years.
I feel that my knowledge and investment growth multiplies as I read all the posts by various valuebuddies.


As we are all still grounded, I couldn't help recalling those fond memories of places that we had visited.

Florence or Firenze in Itialian.
The first thing that pop up in my mind, is the Renaissance buildings.

After coming out of the train station (Santa Maria Novella), I dragged my luggage towards the famous Arno river.  I walk passed a large 15 century Dominican Church (Basillica of Santa Maria Novella), unfortunately it was under renovation and I did not take a closer looks.  Besides, I'm eager to check into my hotel which is more like a B&B pension.
As I walked along the Arno river (with my luggage), I couldn't fail to noticed the dog Sh** along the walk way. 
Yes, exactly the same as Paris (along the pavements too).

I have to navigate carefully but luckily I reached my pension soon.

Settled down, I quickly chiong out to site seeing... again, walking along Arno river.
After walking for a few minutes, saw a money changer and changed some euro.

Then a left turn brings me up to the famous Statue of David (replica).
He stand on top of a column.
As seen many times in picture, this David looks amazingly real life.
The muscle, the body... incredible.

There are a small queue in front and we join in the queue ... into Palazzo Vecchio.
Based on Rick Steve's guidebook, there should be a canteen some where.
We walked around and couldn't find one (because we were in the wrong building).

Inside, the four walls were covered by huge wall paintings of (ancient) wars.
The 2nd floor was interesting.
The 2nd floor actually connects a few buildings together.
You do not need to go out of the building to go to another building.
The 2nd floor has door and passages connecting these buildings together.

On one of the passage, I saw a ceremonial going on.  
Italian wearing their traditional costume, mostly seated and some standing.
Not exactly sure what is the occasion but stood there and observed for a while.

Later, we ignored the guidebook and decided to roam around freely.

We found a small cafeteria at a small and quiet lane just a short distance from the Duomo. 

We took a tray.
Under the glass counter are various foods... salads, spaghetti, pizza, cheese, meatball... lots of variety.

We just point, point and point and take away.
The seating inside the cafeteria is limited and we always prefer to take away to give us more time for sight seeing.

Duomo was an amazing structure.
If you look closer and carefully at the pillar out side.
Not only they are colorful, but they are twisted too.
Yes, twisted marble column.
Look again!

Another picture that pop up in my mind was the real David Statue in Accademia.

Comparing to the replica outside Palazzo Vecchio, this one has a fairer color.  The contrast is clearer and yes, I swear that Michelangelos really crafted Davids head larger than usual, so that when we look up at the status as a whole, the head does not look larger but exactly the same size as we look at him at the same level.

Incredible realistic and these are marbles - I reminded myself.

When I came out of Accademia, there were some un-finished human sculpture
... with a quote which touches my heart:
"I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free."


Today is a special day to me.

Another great day.
With a grateful heart, I would like to share some traveling tips.
Well, it's not just earning $$$, we need to spend them too.

Whatever spent - belongs to you.  Tongue

For those who wanted to go Europe for holiday, it's very natural that you will choose to go UK, Switzerland, Germany, France... especially hit those big cities London, Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Munich, etc. 

This could be done using domestic flight or trains. 

Especially if you're on your own aka not following tour group, then these biggy would be within your comfort zone.

On the other hand, if you're slightly younger and you wanted to have a mix of comfort feeling and also excitement, then Italy would be my recommendation.

A trip of 14-18 days for Italy would be nice.

This was what I had done - using public transport.
This trip should be done during winter time to see snow.

1. Starting in Milan.
2. Train to Lake Como (Varenna) - stay for at least 2 nights
3. Train to Florence - at least 2 nights
4. Bus to Siena - 1 or 2 nights
5. Bus to Rome - at least 3 nights
6. Overnight train to Venice - at least 2 nights
7. Train to Verona (lunch) - Bergamo - at least 2 nights.
8. Train to Milan - 2 nights
9. Home sweet home

Well, we actually was in Lyon, so we took an overnight train (about 9pm) from Lyon-Part-Dieu.  
It's a 6 person sleeping cabin and it was our first time taking an overnight train.
The train was already in the station when we reached. (typically, one would have to go to the train station and wait for the train. We were late because it was my last day of training in Isle d'abeau and when I returned back to Raddisson Blu Hotel, I was very very late.  Although it was a short walk to Lyon-Part-Dieu (main train station), we seek help from Hotel to drive us there.

Ok, inside the train, we had no problem finding our cabin.  
We stand outside of the cabin.
Looking inside, 4 persons was sitting comfortably on the couches (2 facing each other).
[Image: 200120_Blog_Nighttrain_Woman.ashx]

We stand outside of the cabin and just watching 4 of them for the next 5 seconds.

Well, they also look back at us for 5 seconds.

Then, all of them stand up and started to lower the (hidden) beds.

In less than one minutes, 6 beds with clean white bedsheet, pillow was setup nicely.

I took the top right hand bed and my partner took the middle one aka below me.

Oh, before that, I put our two luggage on the top shelves, one above the window and another one above the door.

Reading light, water bottle, blanket was on our bed too.

After climbing up, the cabin light was switch off and the night train started.

We are leaving France... Bon Voyage and Good night.
[Image: 31648cd8ea8933a8fc705a18f7d2bad7.jpg]

Look carefully, it's 6 beds and not 4, can see?
There is one more bed above the center bed.

Thank you all valuebuddies for helping me.

Assuming that SQ can fly again, then it will be a direct flight for you to Milan Malpansa Airport about 12.5 hours flight time.

For us, the night train was delayed.

Oh, before that, since this is a international train, the train conductor actually came to our cabin and collected our passports. Well, he did return us the passport the next morning, so no sweat.

We first realised that the train was delayed because it was churning very slowly.

We had woken and was stretching along the train corridor. 

Outside, I couldn't help but make a conclusion that the roof top of those jungle hut or farm house were painted white.  All of them, snow white.

My partner told me otherwise. It's actually SNOW.

We are coming down from the Alps and these were the snow on the roof tops.

[Image: 23.25.3b-The-Haute-Tarentaise-is-a-terri...avarro.jpg]

@Milan airport (MXP)
When you touched down, you could take a train or bus to Milan Centrale train station. We usually took the bus because it depart frequently, it's easy to find and it dropped us exactly where we wanted. Besides, it's also very continence to pay the fare at the bus.

For those who wanted a slower journey, you could check into Milan hotel near the train station instead of a Hotel inside Milan.  This is because the Hotel near the train station is actually not far from City center and the accessibility by Metro (Subway/MRT) is very easy.

For the more adventurous, buy some snacks and drinks and prepare for the next train to Lake Como - Varenna.  This ride should be about 1 hour.  How do you know you had reached Varenna?
Look out of your window:
[Image: 27498583930_6fb25b7c73_b.jpg]

or you could just take a look at your google map.

Varenna is very relax and the air is crisp.
Take a slow 10 mins walk towards the city direction.

We booked a small B&B cottage which has a frontage view of Lake Como.
When I wake up in the morning, I brushed my teeth facing the Lake...
what a million dollar view.

[Image: Varenna%20SnowCapped%20Mountains%20Hotel...0745-L.jpg]

What a fantastic ways to start a day!

Beginning a sunshine day @ Varenna

Ok, you guys probably know that we are the budget-type of traveler and value-for-money options would be our preference choice.

A day-pass for ferry would be the right choice today.

B4 we proceed, let me show you a map of Lake Como with ferry routes:
[Image: lake-como-boat-routes.jpg]

Take a closer look, Lake como looks like a man with 2 legs.
And, we (at Varrena) are at it's belly.

There is a very famous town with a famous million $$$ view called Bellagio.
Can find?

It's famous because every where you go, there is a Bellagio.
Las vegas, Jakarta - and yes, yes, I had been to all these Bellagio too.
Those Bellagio were faked.

The real one is in Lake Como. Cool

So, you should just go to the Jetty and buy a day-pass.

With the day-pass, your job is to do town hopping.
There are too many and my suggestion is to focus on the center - enough for a day liao. Relax, you're in Italy, don't need to chiong.

Just visit, Menaggio, Cadenabbia, Tremezzo and of course Bellagio.

You can visit historical sites, castle, cathedral, garden, climb up and down.
You can eat breakfast, lunch, tea break, dinner, or take away pizza.
Just roam around.

And of course, the Million $$$ view is to take the ferry into Bellagio.
From far to near, Bellagio appears in front.

[Image: italy-740x357.jpg]

It is with our valuebuddies help that I could roam the world at my own pace.

Thank you.
Varenna to Florence

Waking up to another bright sunshine and we are already 3rd day in Italy.

Today, we are going to take a train ride to Florence.
The total trip will be about 3 hours.
Since we need to change the train (transfer) at Milan Centrale Station, technically we could pick up some snacks in Milan Centrale Station.

[Image: Bistrot-milaan1.jpg?x21922]

Besides soaking in the Renaissance, there are 2 famous things in Florence.
Ponte Vecchio - Old bridge
Let me show you a picture and you can dig out more on it's rich history as a homework.
[Image: ponte-vecchio-reflections.jpg?w=750&q=65]

Next one is actually a must do for lovers...
1 hour before sunset, we would highly recommend you to walk across Ponte Vecchio and take a slow walk to Piazzale Michelangelo.

I won't show you the sunset view from here.
You just take it that this is another million dollar view, my friend.

Enjoy the rest of the 2 days in Florence... and yes, ice cream or the Italian called it Gelato.
My favorite is Rum-and-Rasin, what about you?

Day 5 Florence to Siena by bus

Good morning valuebuddies,
Another sunshine day started with birds chirping happily in the wood.

It's day 5 and we are ready to leave Florence behind for a more relax small town - Siena.

Well, Varenna is a modern European lakeside town, Florence is Renaissance and Siena is Medieval.

After check out, walk back in the direction of train station, there is a Busitalia station nearby. 
About 8eruo, just buy at the bus station, you'll get a relaxing sight-seeing trip to Siena.  The bus will snake into small lanes to pick up more passengers and you could have a peek of ordinary Italian neighborhood.


1 hour later, the bus will stop at Siena Bus terminal. Go downstairs to the basement where you can check out the schedule for next day.  Go-ahead, buy the next day bus ticket to Rome too.  Cool

This is a small and picturesque town.  One night is enough for us.
UNESCO heritage site:
[Image: Sienna-Italy-1200x549.jpeg]

There are a few things you could do, for us, we are not staying in the historical town center, instead we booked a hotel at the foot of the hill.  Following the instruction from the hotel, we found a long long long escalator - at least 100-200m long.
Something modern in a historical old town.

Walk upfront and see closed up stained glass of Siena Cathedral... oh, correction, in Italy, they called Cathedral Duomo.
[Image: Museo-dellOpera-del-Duomo-siena-italy.jpeg]

Walk and explore all the small lanes and little shops and restaurants.
Unlike most tourists, you're going to spend the night here.
Most of the tourists will do a day trip from Florence.
They will need to hurry back when the sun start to set.
You just chill and satisfy your curiosity.
Take note of the large (parade) "square" below the picture, ok?
[Image: Siena-Travel-Guide-2048x1328.jpg]

Where the famous festival 2 July and 16 Aug:
[Image: tuscany-palio-di-siena.jpg]

Take a evening/sunset stroll at the II Campo too.

Good morning, valuebuddies,
Waking up to another cooling day.
Looking out at the greenery, I feel so appreciative of all the help that you had given me.

After taking a continental breakfast, we check out of the hotel and drag our luggage up the escalator towards the bus terminal.

We are a bit early and there are still enough time to chill.

The sun is shining now and the air is as crisps as possible and everywhere looks so brilliant.  Cool

Hop up the bus and find myself a window seat.

Along the journey to Rome, I am very amazed by the greenery.
[Image: Umbria_Banner.jpg]

[Image: IMG_0099_1024x1024-768x515.jpg]

About 3 hours, we arrived at Rome Autostazione Tiburtina.
Oh, Rome in Italian is Roma.
Mind you, you need to remember these Italian words to read Bus/train sign board and get around.
Test you, what is Florence in Italian?
Don't know, better find out before you go. 

Next to Roma Bus terminal is a major train/MRT station.
Study the MRT map carefully and the off you go... to your hotel via MRT.

For example, we are going to MRT station Ottaviano (Vatican city) which is where we are staying, and currently we are at Metro B line station (Tiburtina), need to take 4 stops to Termini and then drop off at the 6th stops.
[Image: metro-rome.jpg]

Ok, we are staying in Roma for 3 nights.
Actually, 3 nights is not enough but what to do? 
One tricks is to stay near to your favorite sight-seeing site.
For example, I think Vatican city is fantastic and would be my favorite spot.
So, I choose to stay in a hotel near Vatican city law.

What it means is when I check in to my hotel, I actually already take a look at the Vatican city.
Whenever I come out or go back to hotel, again I will walk pass Vatican city.
Day time view, night time view. 
Easy, easy. 
In fact, in the wee hour of the morning, a quick walk to Vatican city without the crowd is an amazing experience.

What would be your favorite site in Roma?

[Image: bp1.jpg]


Nobody is going to Roma for holiday now - understood.
Just in case, one day in the future, you wanted to go to Europe for holiday.

Italy would be one sandwich between comfortable trip (London, Paris) and exotic.
What I meant is Milan, Florence, Siena, Lake como, these are the northern region of Italy and they are comfortable - just like London & Paris.

The southern Italy will be slightly rough and hence the exciting parts.

My suggested itinerary started in the North will ease your anxiety for the first few days and then be prepared to embrace the rest of Italy.

Roma has a lot of history... just like Beijing.
[Image: rome-main-attractions-map.jpg]
In the Green zone, you'll visit Vatican City, Pink zone Pantheon, Blue zone Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Orange zone Roman Forum and the famous Colosseum.

Note that Colosseum is not unique to Roma but this one is a must visit aka buy a ticket and go inside.

When I was at Colosseum, it was roughly 5pm evening time.
I was walking outside, along a pavement when I saw a group of young children about 12 years old. A lot of them, like bees.
We cross path and it was really crowded.

One of them pop right in front of me and ask me rapid fire questions:
"China? Japan?"
I smiled back and say "Singapore."

He continue "Maradona? You know Maradona?"
I smiled back and before I can says anything, my instinct kicked me.

These are not friendly young Italian.
Something bad is happening.

I am surrounded.
Yes, literally surrounded.

The only saving grace is I'm bigger and I can push my way out.
Thanks god, I did not bring anything expensive and I came out in one piece.  Big Grin

I won't be pasting the photo of Roma sights here as this would be your homework.

After checked in to our hotel in Vatican City, we went downstairs looking for the pastry shops which we saw earlier... we saw a queue earlier.

Being a Singapore, our instinct told us that the breads, pizza etc must be good... because of the queue.  Cool

We followed the queue and when it's our turn, there was square pizza in front of us.
Large square pizza like 1x1 meter type.  The man standing in front of me was holding a scissors and looking straight into my eyes. Then, he lowered his scissors and pretend to cut. I knock my head. He cut and look at me when he cut. I look at his scissors cutting and I put up my hand with a ok sign.

He stopped and then trim off a rectangle shape of pizza - a normal size one.
What a relief.  Rolleyes

He weighted and says something something which I can not understand.

Eventually, I pay him the $$$ and he pass me the Pizza in a paper tray.


In Italy, in particular, you can not go wrong with Pizza.

Day 9@Roma
We had crossed half of our holiday.

Tonight, we would take a night train to Venice and we are so exhausted.
Roma has so many heritage sites that we are really exhausted and we look forward to a good night sleep on the train.

[Image: pexels-photo-949223.jpg]

As our previous night train was a rather hair tearing experience (we were rushing to the train station), we decided to go to Roma Termini (station) earlier and have a late dinner before boarding.

This time round, we were lucky.
When we reached our cabin, it was empty.
Of course, now we know how to lower the hidden bed and also prepare the bed sheets etc, we did that gracefully with a bit of imagination.

We waited for the train to roll and nobody came.
Oh yes, someone was starring at us few minutes ago but they move on.

We happily locked the door from inside and tucked in for the night.  Shy

[Image: gu-vl-01-nuit.jpg]

The ride was uneventful and I slept throughout the night.

When I wake up, the train already parked in Venice (Venezia).
Note that there are 2 train stations and the one you wanted to go is Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia.

We dragged our luggage and check into a hotel few minutes walk from the Train.
If you had not seen Venice before, take a look and tell me what it looks like:
[Image: water-bus-actv-night-line-venice.png?wid...quality=85]

We stay near the top of the fish head (train station).
However, if you feel luxurious and romantic, then I would highly recommend you stay in Giudecca.  Cool

Our hotel allow us to check in so we when up and wash up a bit.
Well, the toilet is not attached.
I mean, the toilet is for us only (key) but it's not inside the room, it's outside.

Well, learn something new.

The weather is getting cooler and we put on layers of cloths and pack our gloves etc in our day pack and then off we go.

The blue line in the map is the ferry... normal cheap ferry.
To me Venice is so romantic and taking ferry around would be my recommended best experience to sight seeing Venice.  Big Grin

Thank you for reading.
I declared Venice is the most romantic city in the world!
Big Grin

[Image: natalia-lusinski-murano-venice-italy-1-1170x1560.jpg]

We were browsing at the famous murano glass at a tourist shop.
The lady receptionist was showing my partner pieces of the jewelries and they were really something unusual.

Suddenly, she pointed to the entrance and says something which I don't quite catch it.

I just glance at the entrance and I saw an elderly man shifting a signboard into the shop.

Out of curiosity, I step outside and look up.
The sky is full of white dots, dots, dots ... moving in random.
Erh... there is a official name for this movement.
Let me think.
It's call Brownian motion.

I was wearing my favourite blue jacket and I stretch out my arms to see what happen.

Absolutely nothing.

When the white dot touch my blue color jacket, it disappear.
No trace of it's existence. 
Just gone.

I had just witness my first powder snow falling from the sky.
Big Grin

Again, I would like to declare that Venice is the most Romantic city in the whole wide world.

After we finished our shopping, we continue our exploration of the small lanes everywhere.

The snow is getting heavy and we need somewhere to break for lunch.

We reach a junction and there is a bar (bar-counter) with it's door wide open.
This type of bar is very typical and it served as a common meeting place for neighbours.
After marketing, a housewife will pop into the bar-counter and get a coffee before going home to prepare for meals.

Doesn't seems to be a place for us.
Oh, on our left is a small cafe with glass windows and white laces.
Looks ok.
We ordered a Pasta Puttanesca and Cheese Spinach Ravioli with Butter Sauce.

After we ordered, I couldn't help noticing that the cashier go out of the cafe and leaving us behind.

Quite strange but who cares?

After a while, she came back and we were served with the best Pasta and the best Ravioli anyone can find in the entire world.
Best! Big Grin

However, I had a discovery the next day when we pass-by the same spot.

Remember the bar?
This time round, we walk inside the bar out of our curiosity.
Inside, there is a tall refrigerator.
Inside the refrigerator... holy cow!

I must confess too that after we came back to Singapore, the best Ravioli that we had, could also be found in Cold Storage too.
Big Grin 

Give it try, would you?

[Image: venice_film_festival_stories_we_tell.jpg...383&crop=1]

After we finished our food, the snow was really heavy.

We were under dress, we sought of prepared for cold winter but not this type of heavy snow fall.

Being romantic, we wrap ourselves with layers and layers of clothes - mostly T-shirts.
We also wear ponchos - the type that blue or yellow, transparent type that we got from NDP?
I can tell you, these ponchos looks thin but its actually an excellent heat trap.
Especially if there are winds, these ponchos works like magic. Cool

After prep, we continue our romantic journey - walking further into the small alley of Venice to satisfy our curiosity.

We reached a open space with a Duomo.
[Image: Street-Campo%2Bde%2Bla%2BMaddalena-Cannaregio.JPG]
The snow is so heavy that it's a bit too much for the most romantic person in the world.
The next action plan would be retreat back to the hotel.

Thanks for reading.

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