I am sitting in the lobby of my hotel in Rome, soon about to head to the airport to catch my flight home to Singapore. I have been on holiday in Italy since Tuesday July 12, and it has been two interesting weeks with train rides, Italian food, photography, art, history and hanging out with good friends.
Colosseum in Rome
I started my journey in Rome almost two weeks ago, and it was by time I finally visited the famous Italian capital that used to be one of the most influential ancient cities in the world. Rome is a city filled with history, and I have always wanted to see the ruins of Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica. While walking around in Rome, with old buildings, impressive ornaments and ruins on almost every corner, I could almost imagine what it would have been like to live there during the days of the great Roman Empire.
It was quite easy to get around in Rome. The metro is convenient and quick, but the city center is in fact so small that you can easily walk from sight to sight, which I ended up doing. However, what I didn’t like about Rome was all the beggars and people trying to sell you all kinds of crap on the street, and I would also recommend avoiding the peak tourist season because the streets are so crowded you are sometimes walking in a queue. Also, I didn’t find the Romans particularly polite, and some of them were quite rude, but maybe they were just fed up of all the tourists visiting their city in the summer.
The Vatican Museum was interesting but also very crowded. I had very high expectations to the Sistine Chapel, but I must admit that I was rather disappointed. Firstly, I expected the famous chapel ceiling pained by Michelangelo to be even more impressive than the museum ceiling, but in fact it wasn’t at all. Secondly, people were informed that talking and photographing was not allowed, but most people ignored it so it was very noisy inside the chapel. I have been inside a significant number of religious buildings in Asia, such as Hindu temples, Buddhist temples and Christian churches, and although I am not religious I always try to be respectful and quiet to avoid disturbing people who are there to worship their Gods. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to show the same courtesy, and it is a shame that the Sistine Chapel has been turned into a tourist trap. However, Saint Peter’s Basilica was very impressive. The walls and ceiling are filled with ornaments and statues, and apparently the basilica was designed by Michelangelo himself. It is definitely a sight worth seeing.
I spent the first two days alone in Rome, but on Wednesday evening a good old friend of mine from Oslo, Evi, came down to celebrate my 40th birthday and spend some time with me in Italy. Her journey was rather challenging as the airline (Norwegian) forgot her luggage in Stockholm and two men in a pirate taxi tried to swindle her, but in the end we managed to sort everything out and the rest of the journey was good.
On Friday afternoon we jumped on a train to Bologna where we met my Norwegian-Italian friend Edward and some other friends from Norway. Edward’s family owns a large apartment in Bologna and a house in a village outside Bologna called Fontanelice. We spent the weekend in Fontanelice with our friends and Edward’s lovely Italian mother who looked well after us and made sure we had a wonderful time. I ended up suggesting to Edward that his mother should adopt me, because I would love to have a family just like that.
On Sunday night Evi and I said goodbye to the bunch and went back to Bologna to do some sightseeing. Bologna is probably more famous for shopping than Italian history, but the San Petronio Basilica is quite interesting. The lower part of the cathedral was built in marble and the building was originally meant to outshine even the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, but when the Vatican discovered this Pope Pius IV made sure no more money was provided to the project, and the rest of the cathedral was built with red bricks. Bologna is also known for the numerous towers in the city, with Asinelli and Garisenda being the two most famous ones. Asinelli is the tallest rising 97 meters above the ground, and it is possible to walk up all the steps and get a great view of the city.
Ponte Vecchio in Florence
On Tuesday morning Evi took the train back to Rome to fly home to Norway and I jumped off in Florence and took another train to Pisa to meet my friend, Jarle, also from Oslo. Jarle and I spent the first day in Pisa to check out the famous leaning tower, and on Wednesday we took the train back to Florence to spend a few of days in one of the most historical cities in Italy. Florence was extremely touristy, but also very charming. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is a stunning sight, but the thing I was looking most forward to was to visit the Uffizi Gallery with work by famous Italian artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Sandro Botticelli. Unfortunately, the queue to enter the gallery was gigantic, so we ended up jumping on a guided tour to skip the at least two hours waiting time in the queue. It would cost us a bit more money, but it was definitely worth it.
Close to the Uffizi Gallery is the famous bridge Ponte Vecchio, which is thought to be the oldest bridge in Florence. The interesting thing about this bridge is all the shops along both sides. In the 15th century these shops were greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers, but then perhaps because of their bad smell, Ferdinando I replaced them with goldsmiths, making the road more elegant and cleaner. Hence, if you are looking for jewelry in Florence, Ponte Vecchio is the place to go.
Jarle took the train to Rome on Friday morning and flew back to Norway the same day, while I spent another day in Florence before I finally jumped on a train to Rome where my journey now has ended. I have had a great holiday in Italy, but nevertheless I am really looking forward to getting home to good old Singapore. After all, there is no place like home…