Apart from Florence, Venice is my second favorite city that we visited in Italy! I love the colorful buildings, the waterway, getting lost around the city and treasure hunting for the various tourist spots. It was gloomy in the morning but when the sun came out in the afternoon, we saw the true beauty of Venice.
The rainy morning made us walk into many cafes for a hot cup of good old Italian coffee for him and comforting hot chocolate for me! Hot drinks never tasted so good! Haha. The boy didn’t look happy because he ordered Latte and in Italy, Latte means milk. He got a cup of hot milk instead. That was our first coffee lesson in Italy! He wanted Caffe Latte but lazy Singaporeans call it Latte. He told the guy he wanted Caffe Latte and they simply poured in a cup of Espresso. Haha. Epic fail.
We landed in Italy via Milan and spent half a day exploring the fashion city! In Milan’s main train station, you can check in your luggage at a fee! It is really convenient and it freed us from lugging our luggage around the cobblestone pavements! Generally, there are only two things to do in Milan for a tourist, shopping or visiting the Duomo.
We chose Duomo and some light shopping around the cathedral. Upon ascending from the train station via the escalator, we were greeted by a huge, magnificent, breathtaking and an unimaginable sight of the church. I had my jaws opened for 10 seconds and it reminded me of how powerful Christianity was in the old Italy.
Duomo di Milano is the fourth largest cathedral in the world and the largest in Italy! It took nearly six centuries to complete!
Here we had our first taste of Duomo!
We were at Venice and chanced upon a neighborhood bicycle shop! We got these accessories at less than SGD 40! Isn’t it amazing? All made in Italy, the bike seat, the rubber brown handle, a metal basket and a bell. Yes I lugged all these back because it is going to cost a bomb in Singapore and they are probably all made in China if you get one in Singapore!
These were what we lugged home!
Before we revamped the bike, it looks like this! Thank you Lennel for the bike again!
After my baby revamped it for me, it looks pretty! We ride around our neighborhood very often and this little bike comes in handy!
If you want to know where the bike shop is, we stayed in Venice Mestre (Venice Mainland) at Triton Hotel which is just across the train station. The bike shop is just around the corner, ask the concierge where the nearest supermarket is and on the way to the supermarket, you will see the bicycle shop!
There are many mini cars in Italy and it is not just cars, they have mini buses, vans and trucks too! I can understand why they miniaturize every form of vehicles! Their roads are mostly narrow and single lane, and their parking areas are limited and at the roadsides! Unlike in Singapore where most of our roads are at least two lanes and multistory parking spaces are in abundance. Italians have to navigate the narrow roads between old buildings on cobblestone and share the roads with with pedestrians and cyclists. I just find it amusing whenever I see large man in a mini car! Haha.
Another random post about Italy! I have so many random posts at the back of my head, it’s going to take months to clear! Haha.
My personal favorite! We found this bakery in Milan!
This Italian pastry named “cornetto” in the Center and South of Italy and “brioche” in the North is a cousin of French Croissant! Unlike the French version which is crispy and buttery, Cornetto / Brioche is softer and comes with fillings! They dolled them up with fruits, nuts, cream, sugar and jam and filled them with puree, cream and chocolate! We have them at every breakfast in the hotels we stayed, you see them in cafes and bakeries and it’s everywhere! Yums!
Sino Trading & Frame Works
450 Clementi Ave 3 #01-281 Singapore 120450
Remember I put up a post about a painting we bought at Piazza Navona in Rome? We finally got it stretched! Instead of going to JB which we thought is a hassle to save $20 – $30, I brought it to Sino Trading & Frame Works at Clementi! It costs $73 (after asking for a discount from $75) to stretch the canvas which was 24 inches by 34 inches! Not a bad deal I say. Skillful old masters do the framing and stretching at the store instead of sending them to a factory. They are also helpful and attentive to our requests. The material they used looks strong and of good quality! Total cost of this painting $243!
Awaiting to hang on the wall
And about our painting, I love the red poppies in the foreground,the little house on the hill and the great blue sky! It is a view of Tuscany in Summer / Spring and it is beautiful! Different from most of the paintings found at Piazza Navona, it is less of a country style. Instead, it looks modern with the use of vibrant and striking colors! Most importantly this painting makes me happy while looking at it! I once went to an art exhibition and an art collector gave a talk on how collectors should buy a painting because they love looking at it, instead of its “collectible value” which makes them think “ah, what an ugly painting but I can surely make some money out of it in a few years” and I totally agree with him.
When we first saw Duomo – Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore – in Florence, we were awed. It was as though we have walked into a picture, it was magical! The magic soon disipate once we saw the queue to the church! The entrance to Duomo is free but to climb the dome, you will have to buy a ticket.
The Gothic style cathedral was constructed between 1296 – 1436 and the unique design was created using polychrome marble in shades of green and pink on its exterior. This basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches and it still remains the largest brick dome ever constructed. It is a must see in Florence!
There are two popular outlet stores in Florence outskirt and we chose to visit Prada Space Outlet. It looks different from what I have imagined! I thought it will be chaotic but really it looks like a nice Prada store with a lot of Asians (coming from Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Japan and Korea). HAHA. It is really easy to get there, take a train from Florence Termini Station to Montevarchi Station which takes about 35 mins (express train) or 45 mins to an hour (normal train). From Montevarchi, catch a cab at the station. Prada Space Outlet is the only tourist attraction at Montevarchi and it seems like the entire town survives on their tourist spendings. The cab drivers told us there are probably only 4 cabs in this town and they run to and fro the train station to Space outlet daily!
We were told by the sales staff that they have limited pieces each day for sale and if you go on a weekend afternoon, most of the shelves will be empty already! So huge tip, visit in the morning! We went on a Saturday morning and were number 100+ patrons! They had a limit of 200 patrons per session (not sure how long is the session) but when we were there, it was busy but there wasn’t a queue to get in! So lucky us! We spent less than an hour there because we were very focused on what we wanted to get. Haha.
Our loots! Ok mine, mine loots! Haha
A leather bag for mummy! This is a classic design and it is made of full cow leather. It costs less than 400 euros!
This is for me! A small one for special events! Similarly full cow leather and costs less than 500 euros!
A wallet for me! I wanted a nice pretty wallet for the longest time! Similarly, leather and costs 189 euros
My sister wanted a long black wallet and I thought this is a classic design. Haha. Leather and costs 189 euros too.
So you roughly have a sense of what kind of things they have and their prices! All these prices were before VAT tax refund of around 11 – 13% (I can’t remember)?
He bought our Nespresso machine from Europe and all our capsules are from Europe too! You may wonder, why do we lugged them all the way back home? For one simple reason, it is far cheaper than if you bought it in Singapore. We didn’t come across any Nespresso counters in Italy and thought there didn’t enter the Italy market. But we were determined so our best friend Goggle pointed us to a Nespresso boutique in Coin, a departmental store in Florence on Via dei Calzaiuoli. So yay to that! Here’s for all like-minded people who may be looking for Nespresso in Italy. Haha.
If you ever wondered where BATA originates from, it is not Malaysia and yes even though the unofficial acronym for BATA is Buy and throw away it is not from our neighbors! Correction: Bata is from Czech republic! Yes! For the record, a lot of the shoes sold in Italy’s Bata is actually made in Italy! Haha.
When you are in Rome there is one major tourist attraction which you must visit, the Colosseum. It was originally an amphitheatre and was used for many battles among/between animals, man and animal and men. There were many Christians who got brutally killed there before Rome was a Christian state. Within this amphitheatre there were many “lifts” where animals were brought up from the underground passage to ground level for battles. Wow! Given the lack of technology in the past, it is amazing.
For tourists, it is interesting to know that this majestic building was built during AD 70 – 72! Wow. You probably need less than an hour to walk around this site and read the exhibits displayed. I love visiting ancient ruins!
Just around the corner of Colosseum, you will see the Roman Forum. What is left is a few of these structures and many rocks and bits and pieces of buildings which looks like huge rocks. Haha. At one of the rocks, many flowers were being thrown in there, it was where the public burning of Julius Cesar took place.
The best guidebook probably in Italy or Europe. If you spot anyone carrying a guidebook in Italy, they are probably holding a Rick Steves. It is that popular especially among Americans and Asians. Rick Steves’s guide book is best for their audio guides which can be downloaded for free using an iPhone app. I enjoyed his humour unlike most of the guides which are written in an informative but boring way. We also found some of his tips (e.g buying Roma Pass in Rome) and food recommendations useful! Some tourists insist on not eating at any of the restaurants that Rick Steves recommended mostly because the restaurants will ended up being filled with tourists once it is listed in the book! But we found it useful and it sure is better than Lonely Planet.
You may want to get your hand on one if you are traveling to Italy! We got ours from the library and speaking of which, these books are still lying around with it being overdue! SHIT.
I’m the kind of tourist where I’ll go “Since I’m already here, I might as well see it with my own eyes!” So yes, we went to Pisa! There is really nothing other than the Pisa tower over at Pisa. Haha. We didn’t managed to book an advance ticket to go up the tower and so we merely took pictures of the exterior. From the train station it is about 20 minutes walk to the tower and before you reach Pisa tower you will walk passed a bridge and we managed to take a nice picture of the reflection of the opposite river bank. Heh.
The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. “The Five Lands” is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Initially we intended to sign up for a relaxing Cinque Terre tour but the tour office was closed at 5pm so we called up Walk about florence tour and signed up for a trekking tour to Cinque Terre. It was amazing! Breath taking even at certain point! The guide was two young chaps who were really helpful and friendly. They spoke perfect English having grown up in US and are part US part Italian nationality. The tour includes walking pass vineyards on terraces, olive oil groves, orange and lemon trees, homegrown pumpkins, had lunch at a restaurant with an amazing view, train rides from villages to villages and a ferry ride (if weather permits). The trek was tiring and long but we saw many grannies with their trekking sticks walking at the side of the cliffs, so we had no excuse but to complete the trek! Haha.
We were lucky! We had them all and even though the weather was slightly drizzling we managed to take the ferry ride and some marvelous pictures. So here are some of our favourite pictures!
On a ferry!
The lovers bridge where couples come here and lock a lock in the bridge symbolizing the locking of their love. What they didn’t know is that the staffs will remove those locks after a couple of years. HAHA.
We went to Piazza Navona, Rome and bought a painting! It costs 100 euro for a rather large oil painting! I know I do not have enough walls for the many paintings, prints, posters and pictures (4Ps) but I can’t resist leaving a beautiful picture behind!
If you love oil paintings you can get a small one probably 50 cm by 50 cm for around 40 euros and a big one 1.2 by 0.8 metres from 100 to 300 euros! They are many country styles painting of the Tuscany, Rome and Venice region which is not our style for our home but we found one which was rather modern! I’ll show you once I get it stretched.
I love the painting but when I found out it costs $100 stretch the canvas the frameless way and $150 for a frame, I’m depressed! Anyone know of any framing shops or company who can do that at a lower price? Any artsy people who knows?
We saw a lot of dogs in Italy and we concluded that their top 3 most popular breeds (according to what we saw, LOL) are (1) Dachshund (whenever we saw one, we will go, “Oh look, Da Shun”, as though they are Korean. HAHA) , (2) Golden retriever and (3) bitsy / mongrels! We saw many rare breeds too! Pretty!
We missed Barley a lot! In Italy (and probably all of Europe), they can bring their dogs anywhere! Literally! On a train, shopping at Hermes, in a supermarket, in a hotel, anywhere! We saw many dog owners bringing their dogs along for holidays too! Awww.
At Florence, we also saw a Japanese spitz begging for food with a lady outside a supermarket. When we decided to buy some food for them the next day, they were no longer there. Boo.
See, I told you my blog posts are going to be random. HAHA.
One of our best moments in Italy was a Vespa tour we signed up for at Viator with Florence Town. It was a scooter tour around the Chianti wine region where we get to tour vineyards, olive groves and view the wine and olive oil making process. It is expensive but it is a unique experience and a chance to learn to ride a scooter without a license! Haha. It costs around SGD$200 per pax for a 5 hour tour which also includes cheese on bread and snacks on our first rest stop, lunch at a mansion and a gelato stop on the way back!
If you want to join the tour, go take a look at Florence Town !