With no idea when we can go back to traveling, let me reminisce some moments from a few years back. I never did get around to writing about my trip to Italy in June 2017 because I got lazy! It was a nice ten day holiday with Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa and Cinque Terre in the itinerary. One of the lessons from that trip was to give ample time for a lay over as you will never know if your flight gets delayed. Or if two flights will be compressed into one at a later time than the original one that you have booked. We almost didn’t make the Cathay Pacific connection to Rome in Hong Kong. We were sprinting to the gate as the plane door was about to close. It was embarrassing to see people looking at you inside the plane and probably thinking that we caused the delay. I can imagine the flight attendant announcing they were still waiting for missing passengers. Ha!ha!
Our first stop was Rome and we went straight to Vatican to get our tickets for the Pentecost Sunday Mass that Pope Francis will preside. That was one of the highlights of our trip. It was memorable because we heard mass that he presided, was blessed by him and saw him up close and personal. However, on the way out and while walking one of my companions was pickpocketed. We were warned about the rampant pickpocketing in major Italian cities but we were caught by surprise that it actually happened just outside St. Peter’s Square and right after the Holy Mass. We were too complacent and let our guards down. So remember that when in Rome especially The Vatican area, you should always remember that not everyone is pious. It was our second day in Italy and we immediately experienced something horrible. We felt that we weren’t safe as tourists. Coupled that with a high alert level due to the threat of bombings, we were really worried. Military men were in major tourist attractions and the security level was really intense at that time. But, the pickpockets were still rampant.
We decided to stay in Florence as our base. We had friends there and the place we rented was in the heart of the city. It’s near the Duomo di Firenze with lots of cafes, shops and walking distance to the grocery, Mercato Centrale and train station. The accommodation itself is cheap at only €50 per day for a two bedroom apartment. I can say that I will go back to Italy for the food and the vino! I have great memories of what I ate there. The black truffle pasta, fiorentina steak, pizza, gelato, espresso or cappucino are reasons to go back to Mercato Centrale in Firenze. Back at home, we eat commercial pasta but I realized that freshly made pasta is the best. I should probably learn how to make it. As if!
We normally explore on our own but for a trip to Pisa and Cinque Terre we decided to join a tour. The guide was a young and jolly guy who spoke fluent english. We had a great time although the tour that we joined was for young adults which was fast paced. It was reasonable at about €100 per person. It included the train fares already and lunch. I’m glad we took that tour. Pisa is a nice place to include in an itinerary because when you’re nearby why miss the chance to see and have a photo with the leaning tower as your background, right? Of course, we were also doing what most tourists did while there. Have a photo taken pushing the tower or leaning on it. Ha!ha!
If you get a chance, you have to visit Cinque Terre. We were only able to visit three villages which was Riomaggiore, Manarola and Vernazza. They were nice picturesque places. There’s a store in Vernazza that probably sells the best gelato in Italy and a cafe that sells the best pesto lasagna I have ever tasted. The tour lasted the whole day. We left Florence at seven in the morning and arrived back at around nine in the evening. Travel time to and from Cinque Terre is about 2.5 hrs or more. If you opt to go on a tour that is not by bus or private car, wear comfortable clothes and shoes. There’s a lot of walking and chasing trains!
We also went for a day trip to Venice. Another city worth visiting before the sea engulf it. Don’t forget to eat seafood while there aside from your other favorite italian food. It’s also a city wherein you have to be wary of pickpockets especially at the Piazza San Marco where majority of the tourists are. I guess in most major Italian cities, you have to be on guard. Make sure your bags are in front of you. Even the locals will warn you to mind your belongings.
I want to write some more of our escapades including shopping but I guess I will reserve it for next time. I hope you readers will continue to stay safe and healthy. In the meantime wear your mask, wash your hands and drink your vitamins to protect yourselves from the coronavirus.
the traveling KANGaroo