Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: Italy

Italy 2.4 – Leaning Tower of Pisa

If windmills gave me my first impression of the Netherlands when I was a child, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was that first introduction to Italian landmarks to me. What’s so special about a tower in the middle of nowhere that seems like it could fall and collapse anytime? I didn’t know either, but let’s find out.

From Florence, my dad and I took the train to Pisa station and walked about 20 minutes before we reached the famous tower. The city of Pisa was an hour away from Florence by train, perfect for a half-day trip…or so we thought. As I mentioned in the previous post, afternoon trains running between Florence and Pisa were all delayed by up to 2 hours, ruining our plan of a “half-day” visit to Pisa ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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Italy 2.3 – T-bone steak and tiramisu

Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, is a city that I originally wanted to go to with my friend named Florence. Unfortunately she hadn’t been able to visit me in Europe when I was there, so I went with my dad instead. I will be going back though, next time hopefully with the real Florence ๐Ÿ˜›

The thing is, my dad and I went to Pisa in the morning and planned to get back to Florence in the early afternoon so that we’d still have most of the day in Florence. For some reason, on that particular day, all trains running between Pisa and Florence were delayed…for up to an hour and a half! While waiting in the Pisa train station, delays were announced on top of delays and after much frustration, we lost a total of 2 hours that would have otherwise been spent in Florence. Boo! Sunlight was scarce and we missed a lot that was planned. So you see why I will be going back, eventually ๐Ÿ˜›

The Arno river traverses the city centre, painting Florence in exceptionally picturesque colours while as it is reflected in the water. Connecting the two sides is the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone bridge well-known for having shops occupying the bridge on both sides, usually jewelry shops.

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Italy 2.2 – All roads lead to Rome

“Seule Paris est digne de Rome; seule Rome est digne de Paris.”
“Solo Parigi รจ degna di Roma; solo Roma รจ degna di Parigi.”
“Only Paris is worthy of Rome; only Rome is worthy of Paris.”

That’s quite a bold thing to say. Paris and Rome are reciprocally and EXCLUSIVELY twinned to each other, meaning each city has no other twin cities (there are still “sister” cities and friendship cities). Voilร , after Venice, Rome was next on the list as my dad and I continued our Italian holiday. So Rome, huh. Aside from Paris, Rome is probably considered the other “big shot” in European travel. Yet, after my experiences with Paris and other big, popular cities like Amsterdam, I honestly didn’t hold much high expectation for Rome, though I did give it the benefit of the doubt seeing that I loved the other Italian cities I’ve visited so far. We’ll see if Rome is really that “worthy” of Paris…

Dad and I arrived in Rome as the sun was setting, and after having settled down in the hotel, we set out for a leisurely stroll. The purpose was to get an overall orientation of the city and to figure out where we were with respect to the places we planned to see. It seemed like Rome was quite compact and we’d be able to walk everywhere. The first destination was the Colosseum, which was a mere 20-minute walk from Termini station in the city centre. The Colosseum was accompanied by a beautiful full moon that night. Of course, it was too late to go inside – that would be for another day. I’m gonna go ahead and say that the Colosseum didn’t seem TOO impressive upon first look, but I liked the way that it stood quietly there and didn’t scream for attention…*ahem* Paris. I’m totally going to get hated for being a “Paris-hater”…

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Italy 2.1 – Getting lost in Venice

I’m back in Canada…! That means it’s time to catch up on the blog posts for all the travel done within the past two months, starting with…Italy with dad! So if you’ve been reading the (not so) recent posts, you’d realize that my dad visited me in France for a few weeks, mainly to attend my thesis defense. Of course, since him being in Europe is a rarity and I was leaving soon, we had to take the opportunity to travel around a little. We had several choices in destinations, including eastern Europe (Prague, Budapest, Vienna, etc.), Switzerland (one of the most beautiful countries I’ve been to), and Italy (lots of places worth seeing still on my list). After lots of contemplation and weighing pros and cons, we decided on the classic Italian route: Venice-Rome-Florence-Pisa over a course of 5 days. And so the first stop was…Venice!

For a long time I had wanted to visit Venice and I didn’t really know why. In my mind, Venice was a city built on water and when I first heard of it, I really had no idea what it would look like. I did get to visit a few European cities deemed “Venice of the North”, namely Bruges and Amsterdam. I’ve been to both of these cities twice and strangely both appeared on my list of “cities that didn’t quite appeal to me too much”. Yet, the real Venice was too elusive and I hadn’t had a chance to visit until this time around. So my dad and I hopped onto a Volotea flight directly from Bordeaux to Venice to find out what’s so special about this place.

First impression of Venice: lotsa canals and bridges! Well duh, that was expected, but they were more numerous and more beautiful than I had imagined. My dad and I actually got lost for about half an hour trying to navigate the narrow streets while looking for our hotel. Google maps didn’t help at all! (Well, I was mostly at fault because I followed the wrong signs…teehee!) A lot of frustration later, I happened to look up at the street signs and saw…our street! Ehhhhhh??? What are the chances! So without any systematic directions, we ended up finding the hotel (bed and breakfast) by luck ๐Ÿ˜‰ Oh dear, the joys of getting lost. At least now we have a home-base…we think!

Pretty much as soon as we checked in, we headed out to explore as the days were short and daylight was precious. I was totally ready to get lost again, which was in fact the most enjoyable part of the trip. Turn a corner here to find a random little courtyard, or follow the really confusing and sometimes contradictory signs to discover a hidden church – surprises are everywhere waiting to be found. We did the wise thing to get a map and I would be lying if I said we didn’t consult it almost every five minutes. While getting lost is fun, it is good to know where you are headed to sometimes!

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La vita รจ bella in Italia โ€“ Part 3, La Spezia and Turin

During the Cinque Terre segment of my trip to Italy, my colleagues and I stayed in La Spezia for two nights. La Spezia is a city slightly to the east of Riomaggiore, the southernmost town in Cinque Terre. It is easy to access any of the towns in Cinque Terre by train, making it an ideal location for us to set as our home base.

In case you’re not up to date, you can read the first part about Bologna and the second part about hiking in Cinque Terre.

In the two previous entries, I didn’t mention much about food, but the things I’ve heard about real Italian food in Italy, saying stuff like “pasta is just different and BETTER in Italy”, got me really excited to try some good ol’ pasta and pizza. Pictured above are the spaghetti alla cuccarese and “Balmy” pizza (with stracchino cheese and balsamic vinegar, among other ingredients) that Kana and I had on our first night in La Spezia. OK, the spaghetti was delicious, but what really caught me off guard was the pizza, which I had to honestly say was the best pizza I’ve had in my entire life. NOT KIDDING. I think it was the first time I tried stracchino cheese and that feeling of melt-in-your-mouth goodness is to be cherished forever. And the crust โ€“ perfect thickness, warm and crispy. Ahh. How could I ever eat a pizza outside of Italy ever again?

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