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Monday, December 16, 2013

ITALY!!!!

After three years, we finally made the trip to Italy! I have been looking forward to this trip since moving to London and catching the "travel bug."  We figured that this was going to be our last holiday and therefore needed to make the most of it. We tackled Venice, Florence and Rome in seven days, with three kids and a jet lagged Keith! We had many highs, a few lows but overall a fabulous, memory making trip!

I took over 500 photos while traveling these cities...I had a really hard time deciding which ones to post, so I recommend you grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable!!!

VENICE ITALY ....OCTOBER 28-30               

We arrived at the airport, took a 15 minute taxi ride to the canals where we met up with our taxi boat to our hotel. The kids were so excited about taking boats everywhere!


Here are some photos of the amazing views along the boat ride to the hotel...








Where we stayed, Hotel Concordia
Right off Piazza San Marco!

Piazza San Marco, often known as St. Mark's Square, is the main public square of Venice. The Piazzetta (little Piazza) is an extension of the Piazza towards the lagoon. The two spaces together form the social, religious and political centre of Venice.





St. Mark's Campanile is the bell tower of St. Mark's Basilica. It is one of the most recognisable symbols of the city. The tower is 323 ft(98.6 metres) tall and stands alone in the corner of the square. The campanile was completed in 1514, however the current tower was reconstructed in its present form in 1912 after the collapse of 1902.


The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark, commonly known as St Mark's Basilica is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. It is the most famous of the city's churches since 1807 when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice. Due to it's design, gold mosaics and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, it has been nicknamed the Church of Gold. 








We couldn't get enough of the pigeons in the square. Mandy would take pastries from the breakfast buffet at the hotel so that she could stand in the square and have the birds land all over her! Even Aiden took part in having them land on him!














We took a boat ride over to the Island of Murano. While there we were able to watch a Master creating some amazing pieces of Murano glass figurines. It was interesting to see the process of turning sand into glass. We took a walk through the gallery and looked at thousands of pieces completed by this Master.  They were beautiful and EXPENSIVE!!!








Here are just a few more shots of some of the beautiful sights.....











Mandy, Aiden and I took a walk one afternoon down to The Rialto Bridge. This bridge is one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice. It is the oldest bridge across the canal and was the dividing line for the districts of San Marco and San Polo.




This was the view down the grand canal to the right of the bridge.



Gelato Time!!!




So remember how earlier I mentioned that we had some lows on the trip...well, after strolling around Venice for two days I finally found the piece of Murano Glass that I wanted to buy. About 15 minutes after purchasing it, Aiden jumped out of the stroller to go look at the boats in the water. I went to grab him, and as I let go of the stroller it tipped over and my beautiful brand new bowl shattered...totally devastated. I just opened the wrapping this past Sunday and this was the outcome....


Time to get one last look before heading to the station to catch the train to Florence!






FLORENCE, ITALY...OCTOBER 30-NOVEMBER 1

Florence is the capital city of the region of Tuscany. It is famous for its history, culture, art, architecture and monuments and is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance. The historic centre attracts millions of tourists every year and has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

We stayed in the Hotel Pitti Palace, right by the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge). The Old Bridge is a Medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River, which has shops along it. Butchers initially occupied the shops, but now it is mostly jewellers and souvenir shops.

Old Bridge


Views from the bridge


A look out our hotel window...




Statues...Everywhere!!



Hanging out at The Uffizi Gallery... this is a museum and is one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western World.




Palazzo Vecchio
The Town Hall of Florence
Il Porcellino is the local Florentine nickname for the bronze fountain of a boar. It is a huge draw for tourists, who put a coin into the boar's open jaws, with the intent to let it fall through the underlying grating for good luck. It is said that if you rub the boar's snout it will ensure a return to Florence. Looks like Mandy, Aiden and I will be back one day!!



Piazza della Repubblica is another city square in Florence. Among the square's cafes, the Guibbe Rosse cafe has been a popular meeting place for famous artists and writers! The kids enjoyed a carousel ride and a break from all the walking!




The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in the main church of Florence. Construction began in 1296 and wasn't completed until 1436. The Basilica is one of Italy's largest churches, and until recently , the dome was the largest in the world. It still remains the largest brick dome ever constructed. It is a breathtaking building both inside and out.






We found a wooden puppet shop down one of the alleys. It was filled with Pinocchio Puppets!!


The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the main Franciscan church in Florence and is located in the Piazza di Santa Croce. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians including Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile and Rossini. Because of this it is often known as the Temple of the Italian Glories.




Santa Maria Novella is another church in Florence situated just across from the main railway station which shares its name. Chronologically, it is the first great basilica in Florence and it the city's principal Dominican church.

Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square)  is a famous square with magnificent panoramic views of Florence. It was built in 1869 and designed by architect Guiseppe Poggi on a hill just south of the center. The square is dedicated to the famous Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo. The monument that stands there is a replica of the David, it was brought up the hill by nine pairs of oxen in June of 1873.




Florence was a beautiful city to visit. It was clean, friendly and had BY FAR the best food and wine of the three cities. I wish I had done a bit more research before going as I feel like I had to look up a lot of the history after the fact. Keith and I decided after our 3 days there, that Tuscany is definitely on our "Golden Years" bucket list!! Here are a few final sights of this beautiful city....






ROME, ITALY...NOVEMBER 1-3

I feel as if Rome is a city deserving of it's own trip. There is SOOOOO much to do and see there and probably not the best city when toting a stroller around. I think we were pretty productive with our time here and saw a lot of the main sights though we easily could have filled another 3-4 days with activities. I would HIGHLY recommend buying the Rome Pass if you go. This is a 3 day pass that gives you access to the Hop on Hop off City bus, all public transport, fast pass entry into the Vatican Museum, The Basilica, and the Colosseum, entry into two other sites and discounts into numerous other tourist attractions. We would have waited easily 3-4 hours to get into the Vatican Museum had it not been for those passes.

We stayed at the Kolbe Hotel in Rome, which looks right into the Roman Forum. The Forum is a rectangular plaza surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings. For centuries it was the centre of Roman public life, it was where elections were held, public speeches were made, criminal trials held and even gladiatorial matches. Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located on or near the Forum. The Roman kingdom's earliest shrines and temples were located on the southwest edge, which date back to 7th and 8th century BC!



The Theatre of Marcellus is an ancient open-air theatre, capable of holding up to 20,000 spectators! It was completed in 13 BC and formally inaugurated in 12 BC by Augustus.


Largo di Torre Argentina is a square that host four Republican Roman temples and the remains of Pompey's Theatre. Julius Caesar was killed in the Theatre of Pompey and the spot he was believed to be assassinated is in the square.  Now located in the square is the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter for homeless cats.




St. Peter's Basilica is one of the four Papal Basilicas of Rome and is the most prominent building in Vatican City. It is one of the holiest sites of Christianity, and is the burial site of Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Truly a breathtaking site, this present day basilica, built over the old basilica, began construction in 1506 and completed in 1626. Here is a link to the complete history...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Peters_Basilica





We went to the Vatican Museum, which holds 54 galleries filled with art and sculptures collected by the Roman Catholic Church. The last and most notable gallery is of course the Sistine Chapel. The work within these walls was quite impressive, however is was so hard to enjoy it due to the INSANE amount of people inside. By the time we made it to the Sistine Chapel, we were tired, frustrated and feeling a bit claustrophobic. I was, however excited to see the Sistine Chapel and the famous work that took Michelangelo four years to complete. I have to say, I was completely underwhelmed. When you see photos, it looks amazing, but when there in person it is a poorly lit, rectangular room with way too many people crammed inside and a very rude man repetitively speaking into a microphone "Shhhhh! Please be quiet! Respect the sanctity of the chapel! No photographs allowed!" I kid you not... Despite my slight disappointment, Michelangelo's work was impressive! Anyway, here are some photos from inside the museum.










Here are some sights around the city as we headed over to the Colosseum. 







We took the bus over to the Colosseum only to find that we missed the last admission time for that day. We were in awe of its size as we strolled around the outside. The Colosseum is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city. Built of concrete and stone, it was the largest amphitheatre of the Roman empire and considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. Construction began in 70 AD and was completed in 80 AD; it's believed that it could hold up to 80,000 spectators. The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions and dramas based on Classical mythology. Later it was used for such things as housing, workshops, a fortress, a quarry and as a Christian shrine. Though partially ruined due to damage caused by an earthquake, the Colosseum is the starting point for the Pope's "Way of the Cross" procession that he leads each Good Friday.







Palestine Hill



We went back the next day so that we could go inside. It was magnificent! My favourite part of the trip simply because the kids were so impressed and inquisitive about it. We had many great conversations about the purpose and history here in the Colosseum. I loved seeing them appreciate and connect with the history and significance of where they were.
















After the Colosseum we hopped on the metro to head over to the Trevi Fountain. 


The Trevi Fountain is a fountain in the Trevi District of Rome. It stands 86 ft high and 161.3 ft wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and is one of the most famous fountains in the world. The fountain's name comes from the fact that it sits at the junction of three roads, tre vie. Work began on the fountain in 1732 and was completed in 1762. Tourists come to the fountain to throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder. It is believed that if you do this it will ensure your return journey to Rome. An estimated 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day. The money is collected and used to help feed the needy.










After some time at the Fountain we had lunch and then headed back to the hotel to ready for our flight back to London.
Fun at Lunch
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Spanish Steps...135 in total



A view from the top of the Spanish Steps



Playing amongst the ruins on the walk back to the hotel....










What a fabulous trip. We definitely saved the best for last. So many wonderful memories and experiences to keep with us. 




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