Fontana di Trevi, Rome

One thing you will find everywhere in Rome is Fountains. You’d struggle to walk 2 blocks without running into one, although most aren’t particularly pleasant. The Fontana di Trevi is very clean though and attracts huge crowds. We spent at least an hour sitting by the fountain which I think is attached to a hotel.

We must have seen a couple of hundred Euro thrown into the waters too. I’m not sure what the purpose is but the women especially take a coin in one hand, pose for a photo, circle it above their head and then throw it over a shoulder into the water.
In addition to the running water you can be ammused by the locals who try to sell you the most ridiculous things. Big at the moment are ballons filled with flour that can be shaped into faces. They will initally try to sell these to you for 5 Euro and demonstrate how to make a funny face with it. Upon refusing them they try to entice you further by shaping breasts, complete with nipples, onto the figurine. I think we saw one tough tourist manage to haggle them down to 4 for 1 Euro.

The highlight of our stop here was a group of Italian school girls who sat next to us. One of them overheard us talking and gathered the courage to ask if we spoke english and where we are from. She exciteldy ran back to her friends and before long we had about 15 ten year old girls asking what is our favourite colour and what is our favourite animal. Its unusual to be the focus of such attention.

On our way back to the hostel we inadvertantly started a bidding war between two resturant owners over our patronage. After the fixed menu price fell from 11 to 8 Euro we couldn’t refuse so stayed and enjoyed Italian pasta a block from the Vatican where our day began.

-Simon

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St Peter's Basilica, Rome

Given the length of my earlier entry I shall keep this brief. This church is huge, and you may recall our visit to Montreal where we saw the replica a quarter of its size and thought it was big. Again it was hard to think of the building as place of spiritual worship for Catholics given the hundreds of tourists snapping away. It was however a good example of Roman architecture and gives you an idea of how grand a vision the Roman people had.

After our visit to the Basillica we walked to the Pantheon followed
by lunch and a gelato. While lined up in Barcelona for dinner, we had chatted to a guy from Rome. He recommended a gelato place called Blue Ice. Of course Rome has a gelato store on every corner so we didn’t expect to find it. However, tired and hot we turned down a quiet street near the Piazza Nivona and what should we see but Blue Ice. He was right, it was great gelato!

– Gemma

Sistine Chapel, Rome

On advice from other travellers who had been to Rome we got up bright an early to join the queue at the Vatican. It wasn’t a long wait (perhaps an hour or so) and we were through the turnstiles and into the Pope’s headquarters.

Admittedly Simon and I were only intersted in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel but on the way we took in some of the other artworks. One of my favourite galleries was the Gallery of Maps, with its spectaular painted ceiling and walls covered with brightly painted maps. There were far too many works for me to cover in this small overview, ranging from paintings, to tapestries, sculputres and furntiture pieces. The museum also has a small modern art collection.

The Sistine Chapel was quite something, far more colourful than I expected. It was a little strange being in a room with three hundred other people and four guards trying to maintain silence, but they were very effective ‘Shooshers’. It is quite remarkable that Michelangelo, the same man who executed fine scuplting was also a detailed and accurate painter. Most artists these days dedicate their time to one medium, and even one style within that medium, whereas Michelangelo and other Renaissance¬†artists where extremely proficient in a number of areas.

My overall impression of the Vatican Museums is that it is one hell of a money earner. There were so many people going through the gates and at every turn there was a vendor with rosary beads, posters, statues and pictures of religious scenes and 2008 calendars of the Pope. This is certainly not a spritual experience, but does give a good glimpse into a history that has shaped the world.

– Gemma

Roman Holiday

This afternoon we arrived in Rome. We did not do much sightseeing as it was quite late by the time we grabbed something to eat and checked into our hostel. As you can see, we made a few friends and had a good night sharing our travel stories and getting to know one another. Interestingly, Fillipe (sitting next to me) is also an industrial relations lawyer in Brazil. Whilst he works for the dark side we got on very well and he has offered to be a contact for Simon’s parents when they travel to South America in September.

– Gemma

The Accademia, Florence

A nice dry nights sleep does wonders for the body. Today we made our way to the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze (Academy of Fine Arts, Florence), usually known as just ‘the Accademia’. This is definitely one of the highlights of the trip in my opinion.

While the Accademia houses one of the most famous art works in the world (Michelangelo’s statue of David) the small physical size of the museum restricts how many people can enter at a time making it a much more pleasant experience than the Louvre in Paris.

Unfortunately the restrictions on photographs are a little more strict so we don’t have any photos to show, you will all have to visit for yourself. For $6.50 euro you can’t go wrong even if you just see the works from Michelangelo and Botticelli.

While we saw other sculptures by Michelangelo at the Louvre, it wasn’t until we saw the statue of David that we really understood why he is so highly praised. The sheer size of the statue dwarfs anything else we have seen and the detail in every part of his body, from his toes to his hair, is simply unsurpassed. We must have
spent 30 minutes looking from every angle and while others snapped photos discreetly under their arms and from behind pillars, we refrained and instead bought the fridge magnet above.

– Simon

Washed away in Florence

It was after 5pm yesterday by the time we arrived in Florence and found our accommodation, a camp site up in the hills overlooking the city. Expecting sunny warm weather we had booked three nights at Camping Michelangelo, expecially as it had permanent tents, ‘cabins with canvas rooves’ the website said.

This was perhaps a bit optimistic and given that the drought in Florence was broken the day we arrived with heavy rains, camping quickly turned dismal. Nevertheless we gave it a go for one night and when we woke this morning to heavier rain, damp clothes and an indoor swimmng pool we grabbed our packs and headed into town.

Whilst one of us sat in the McDonald’s with the backpacks and a walkie talkie, the other checked for vancancies in the surrounding hotels until we found a great little place which was dry, warm and threw in breakfast as well.

With our accommodation sorted we spent the rest of the day wandering the old streets of Florence. There were markets down most streets selling souveniers, leather products and counterfeit sunglasses. Gelato and coffee shops where abound and when we were ready for dinner there was no shortage of trattorias and restaurants to choose from.

– Gemma

Gothic Barcelona

Our last day in Barcelona and we couldn’t leave without checking out the beaches despite the overcast and chilly weather. We took a scenic route (read: we got lost) via La Cascada Ciutadella, another fountain that isn’t runing, and actually stumbled across Teletech Barcelona. Leaving as quickly as possible we found the beach where we stopped for a coffee and shelter from the rain.

After the rain had cleared up a little we completed our walking tour of the Gothic areas of the city. Of note were the Cathedral de Barcelona, the Templed’Augustus where four Corinthian columns remain from the Roman’s temple, and the Placa de Sant Jaume which is the centre of Catalan culture – a court formed within the Palau de la Generalitat (parliament building), the Casa de la Ciutat/Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) and the Chapel of St. George.

Amoungst the old gothic buildings and small laneways are markets and buskers who will stop playing the moment a camera is pointed at them and demand a euro, I don’t blame them. All of this only 2 minutes walk from our hostel.

-Simon