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Italy Trip, Part 2 Of 4

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Slowly getting through the photo editing! Here is the second email for those interested:

Dear friends, family and loved ones,

Attached should hopefully be a few photos and, if I've worked out how to do it, a short video of us crossing the Grand Canal in a gondola. Not one of the crazy expensive tourist gondola, but one the locals use to pop across the water. Great value at 2euro a ride and so much fun!

Observation no. 8 - at exactly seven each morning, our local church bells in Venice toll 60 times. No rolling over and pushing the snooze button on that alarm clock!

Our days in Venice fall into an easy routine. We rise with the bells and after breakfast, explore a new part of the city. We pick up pastries along the way and around mid-day head back to the apartment for lunch. After a rest we head out again, this time in a different direction, until it is time to return for dinner.



Observation no. 9 - each morning, and again in the evening, the Italian nonna in the building opposite leans out her window and spends time surveying her world below. No peaking from behind curtains here; she takes an open interest in the activities of her neighbourhood.


One morning we got up early and made our way back to St Marks Square for me to get some photos of the gondolas in the blue light before dawn. It is wonderful walking the streets at this time of day and we were able to experience another Venice, one completely different to the city it becomes once all the other tourists are out and about. After the photos we walked across town, over the Rialto bridge and down to the fish and vegetable markets. Still too early to begin our food shopping we stopped at a cafe for coffee and croissants. The market workers had the same idea except instead of coffee they were throwing down beer and wine.

Observation no. 10 - the rule about not drinking alcohol before 12 does not apply in Italy. Soon after I saw a girl eating gellato. It seems that the rules about not eating ice-cream for breakfast thankfully don't apply here either. No wonder the Italians are always so happy!

All the seafood at the market looked so amazingly fresh and there were all kinds of fish we'd never seen before. We bought some tuna so dark it was almost black, and some beautiful prawns.

The morning was overcast and the light, as the sun came up over the Grand Canal, was very soft, almost surreal. Dad said it was very Turneresque. As we walked home we watched the workers going about their morning activities - food being delivered on trolleys, laundry being offloaded from a barge, the men sweeping the streets with their brooms made of twigs. Even a man vacuuming the stone paving out the front of a museum.


Dinner that night was lemon risotto with prawns cooked by our personal chef (aka dad) followed by a stroll down the lane for gellato (coconut for mum, tiramisu and cherry for dad, blood orange and peach for me).

Observation no. 11 - Some young men like to cruise around the canals with doof doof music blaring from their boats. It was remarkably reminiscent of Chapel Street.

Thursday, our final day in Venice, was museum day for dad (Museo Storical Naval, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and the Biblioteca Marciana) and palace day for mum and I (Palazzo Ducale). In the afternoon, as we wandered into the Church of Santa Maria, we found we were just in time for an organ recital. We spent a quiet and pleasant half hour sitting in the cool of the beautiful old church listening to the music.

That evening we said goodbye to the wonderful city by drinking the last of our Bellini and sitting on a bridge over a canal eating slices of pizza.

Observation no. 12 - pizza always tastes better when eaten while sitting on a bridge over a canal.

As we ate we chatted about our impressions of Venice. The conversation went something like this:

Dad: I've grown to like itme: For me it was love at first sight!Dad: I hate that there is dog piss on every second corner

me: I love that there are dogs everywhere!

Dad: Everything is falling apart

me: It's so wonderfully old!

Dad: It's shabby

me: It's charming!

What we did agree on is that we would all like to come back.

And so, to Florence. The romantic, renaissance city that the travel writers swoon over is hard to find. In the centre, where we are staying, we could be anywhere. I walk past Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway. The shops are blaring English music. The river of tourists flows relentlessly from the Ponte Vecchio to the Duomo and back again. But the food market, just a minute away from our apartment, makes up a little for the lack of charm in this area. It is fabulous (although not as good as the one in Barcelona). And the peaceful garden, centred with an orange tree and surrounded by cloisters, in the Basilica di San Lorenzo almost opposite our front door helps a little more.

We force our way through the tourists and go in search of the real Florence. A day full of walking and it still isn't to be found.

Observation no. 13 - As there were doof doof boats in part of Venice, here in Florence there are doof doof push bikes. As much of the centre of the city is closed to traffic, locals get around on bikes. Some young Italian men like to strap stereos to their backs and the music pulsates through you as they hurtle past.

Our second day, Sunday, we crossed the city and the Arno river and visited the Giardino Bardini. Mum and I went independently to dad and managed to get just a week bit lost when I insisted we had found a secret back entrance to the gardens. We climbed up terraces of wilderness, our feet and legs soaked by the dew covered grass. It was very lovely but in the end we arrived at a tall stone wall and were unable to go any further. After retracing our steps we found the correct entrance to the gardens and dad was already there waiting for us at the very top.

The gardens were very beautiful and the climb to the top of them very steep, but the view over Florence and the Tuscan hills beyond was gorgeous - the best side of the city we've seen so far and it made it a bit easier to see what people love about it here. It was relaxing and peaceful in the gardens; very few others had come to enjoy them on this sunny morning and it was a welcome relief to get away from the crowds in the city below.


Later we visited the Museo del Bargello (Sculpture Gallery) which holds Italy's best collection of Tuscan Renaissance sculpture. The building itself was built in the late 1200's and is magnificent. Combine that with some amazing art and for me, it was the highlight of Florence so far.


Gellato flavours for the day: mum - lemon and strawberry; me - pink grapefruit and strawberry.

Observation no. 14 - dogs are allowed everywhere in Italy. It is still strange to see them in department stores.

A short note about the food in Italy: it is great! Every pizza we've had (and I'm not ashamed to say there have been a few now) has been fabulous. They are very thin with minimal toppings (my favourite so far is tomato, cheese, anchovies and capers). They are not at all oily like Australian pizzas. Lunch every day is thick slices of crusty bread spread with pesto and topped with tomato and brie or goats cheese. Absolutely delicious! The pastry shops are often elaborate affairs and the cakes are scrumptious. We bought some fruit jellies at one and mum says they are the best fruit jellies she has ever had. I'd never eaten fruit jellies before so I'll take her word for it.

Today, Monday (and a very happy birthday to my fabulous husband who always says YES, no matter how crazy my ideas), we tracked down the No.7 bus, hopped on board, and went up into the hills above Florence to a pretty little town called Fiesole. Our first stop there was a visit to the Roman ruins. So beautiful and it was amazing to sit on the stone steps of the theatre and know that people had been sitting in the exact same spot over 2000 years ago. The view out over the hills was exactly as I had imagined Tuscany to be - olive groves, pencil pines, stone villas and sunshine. Picture postcard perfect.



We spent a happy few hours walking the narrow and steep streets around the town. We stopped to write a post card and began chatting to a couple. Amazingly, they were from Maldon. What a small world it is now!

Observation no. 15 - Dad can no longer do up the top button on his pants.

Love to everyone,

Larissa, Christine & Michaelxoxo

ps - thank you to everyone who emailed, it was great to hear from you and get the news from back home!

pps - Catriona you're right, I'm very fortunate indeed to be able to experience a trip like this with my parents. Dad commented a few nights ago that "you learn a lot about one's family when you travel with them".

What dad has learned about me: being touched by feet evokes a violent response completely disproportionate to the action that caused it.

What I've learned about mum: that it's important to pay for everything with the Exact Money.

What mum has learned about dad: that he can work out how to open foreign washing machines where both she and I failed.

ppps - Sarah, thank you for the books. They were both lovely. Mum has also read them and now Dad has started on Lost and Found.

pppps - In answer to your question Ross no, the canals don't smell. Florence is in fact far smellier than Venice was.

ppppps - Richard, I can understand how very easy it would be to gain that much weight in so few days. I'm hoping that the huge amount of walking we are doing, as well as the Stairway Of Hell leading up to our apartment, will help negate the large amounts of cheese we are consuming.

pppppps - Cait, there is licorice flavoured toothpaste here - want some???

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Just gorgeous, your writing is beautiful.

This is making me want to go to Italy even more. Looking forwards to parts 3 and 4 :)

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If there was ever another country I'd like to live in, it would be Italy, somewhere in those hills. Your writing and photography have brought it all back to me. Thankyou.

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Just gorgeous, your writing is beautiful.

This is making me want to go to Italy even more. Looking forwards to parts 3 and 4 :)


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really enjoying your writing and the fabulous pics!! reminds me of what I'm missing here in Australia ...

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okay, I admit I've not the attention span to read all of your words, but loving the bits and pieces, the "observations" are cool and you do make me want to visit, great photos again :)

nonna is very authentic :) (maybe a stupid comment but I can just see her making a point of checking everything out) anyway

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