A Travellerspoint blog

San Marino

The next country Day 11

Sunday 29th April.
We started off from Poppi Hotel in a cloudz day 21 degrees for our next country San Marino. Before getting there, we visited Ravenna, a world heritage town where all monuments and buildings are from early christian times. Our local guide, Lucianna was our tourguide, Mattia's teacher when he joined Cosmos 7 years earlier. She was a real character. she was about 65 and rode a bicycle for the tour.The town was from the 5th centurz and the Byzantine mosaics were present in the churches and mausoleum of St Vitale which was built in the earlz 6th century where Gallapatten was a roman Emperoress in the 500's. Her Mausoleum was for her, her husband, Lacidiu and Son, Valentino. Dante, the poet who discovered divine comedz, also has a crpyt here.
Lucianna was a real school marm and she had everyone running around on her behalf wherever we went. She took us to a mosiac room and told the ladies we had to come inside with her and the men were to wait outside and look in through the window. There she squirted them with window cleaner causing a huge uproar with all us ladies and shock from the men.

The next funny thing that happened was at a restaurant we stopped at for lunch after leaving Ravenna. Mike from Masterton sat down on a filigree wrought iron chair outside for his lunch and somehow, got his belt tab stuck firmly over a little hooked design in the back of the chair. We were sitting nearby them and when he got up to go back to the bus, he took the heavy chair with him. I collapsed laughing as it looked so funny. Funnier still was Des standing very close behind Mike's backside with me suggesting Mike undo his trousers so we could manhandle him from the chair. Mattia, our guide heard us cracking up and me shrieking with laughter and taking photos of Des and Mike basically looking like they were stuck together with Mike's pants half down. Mattia had to join in with the laughter and also took photos. In the end, being unable to free Mike and the chair not being able to fit on the bus or Mike not wanting to take it the rest of the way around Italy attached to his person, Mattia cut him loose on his belt tab with a large knife from the kitchen. Very memorable occassion.

Finally, we were on our way to San Marino. High, high up in the hills is this ancient Republic. this was the highlight of our tour so far. Spectacular views to villages below and the hills way way out. We had been assigned to a different hotel to everyone else as they were 1 room short. We actually had the best room of everybody at the Grand Hotel. Kingsize bed and much quieter than the others had apparently. We had breakfast in this hotel the next morning and it must have been at least 4 or 5 star. Very posh and we felt very special that we got this. San Marino is totally different to anywhere else we had been so far. It is breathtaking and a cable car runs from it to the lower part of the village. Our walk back to our hotel after dinner was 21 degrees still and seeing all the lights below and way out into the horizon was so beautiful.

Day 12 Assisi Holiday Inn-

Wishing we could have stayed another day in San Marino, we then headed for the next amaying place which Des and I were really looking forward to. Assisi. We were now travelling through the Umbria area which we felt, was prettier than the Tuscan region. We visited another hillside medival town called Urbino to visit the Palace Ducale which is the National Art Gallery as well. This had orginal art from the 14th and 15th century but also explained what each room had been when it was a Palace, e.g. the Duke's and Duchesses Apartments. We ran out of time to seen anything else in the town but that was stunning and we could have spent heaps more time there anyway. Next, gubbio, another medival town highup in the Umbria region. Here, we caught an elevator and walked high up to view the town and the roof tops from near it's palace. We enjoyed a "romantic table for 2" (as the waiter put it) for lunch then walked back down through the narrow cobblestoned streets with gorgeous shops avoiding the mad Italian drivers who don't slow up for you even in these narrow streets. Venice was more relaxing as there was no traffic coming at you or behind you while you negotiated the crowds and the rugged street paving or cobblestones. You have to keep your wits about you at all times and then there is the pickpockets you have to be wary of as well and I forgot the poo from all the little dogs every Italian seems to have on leads as well. Hey its all good fun really.

Posted by RitchieOE 09:03 Comments (0)

Still in Italy

Venice and more

Fri 27th April At Poppi Hotel near Venice.
We left the Tuscan region and headed into the Apinine Mountains where there was still snow on the tops. The weather is fantastic now. We headed to Verona today for a guided tour of this beautiful city. These trips are pretty fast and stressful with having to watch the guide, look at what they are talking about and dodge the mad Italian drivers but the history makes up for everything. We could even see a hole in the road, covered by glass of the buried city below us which was totally fantastico.We sat in the square where the Arena is for our lunch watching everyone go by then we had our photos taken outside the arena with 2 guys dressed as Centurians and also found a beautiful maintained park which was unusual.
We then headed to Venice where we settled at Poppi >Hotel. Very flash and comfortable but the shower gave the whole bathroom a wash so they had to fix that pronto. We then headed to Venice by water taxi where the buildings were totally overwhelming as all other places we have been so far of course.With the waterways, this city is totally different to any other. It was night time so we headed down a very narrow lane to a restuarant with our guide, for a really sumpuous dinner in a very old building. Restorante Antico Pignola was very busy and waiters were literally running around all the time.It was dark when we came out so saw St Marks Square by night. WOW - orchestras playing and the whole of Venice area was lit by very lovely subdued lighting making it look very olde world. - no neon lights. What an amazing time under to romantic moon and stars to be in Venice eh.

Saturday 28th April Poppi Hotel.
Today we had a slightly different breakfast and a shower for a midget with anorexia but then we had a full day at leisure in Venice. The weather was super hot 28 to 30 degrees making for a tiring day and a lot of visits for the cool narrow streets to cope with that. We saw a glass blowing demonstration of Murano glass in Piazza del St Marko (St Marks Square) then off to our optional tour of a Gondola ride - a must in Venice ofcourse. Our tour group were in several boats together with a singer and guitarist in one to seranade us. an amazing experience only spoilt by our grumpy gondolier who looked like he was probably a father filling in for his son and really didnt want to be there and kept telling us off in our gondoler which had 2 kiwi couples and an aussie couple. Pity he had to spoil the romanticism of it all so he certainly didnt get a tip from any of us

Looking forward to our new country of San Marino tomorrow which aparently was overbooked so Mattia our guide asked us in Venice if we would like to stay in the adjoining hotel. We said yes of course as it was called the Grand Hotel so we decided it may be better than where everyone else was staying.

Posted by RitchieOE 06:55 Comments (0)

Poggibonsi Italy

From here we do day trips

Wed 25th April Anzac Day 2012
Off we went to Florence and a tour of this remarkable city after a one hour trip on our tour bus. This began with a trip to a very expensive leather shop demonstration where we were invited to buy beautiful leather goods - Sorry girls we are not bringing you home any of those! Off with a local guide to see the highlights of the city and then joined her again to see the Uffizi Gallery to see the real paintings from the early centuries. We could have stayed in there for a week at least it was so facinating and so many to see.Just quickly squeezed in a trip to see Michaeangelo's David The real one, not the immitations that are in abundance. I did offer to be his cleaner as he is quite dusty around his thighs. I suggested to a fellow tour group girl from Oz I would be very careful with him and only use my hands and a soft cloth around the important bits of his anatomy. That went all round the tour group of course. Back on the bus and back to Poggibonsi to our hotel.

Thursday 26th April
Today we drove 1 1/2 hrs for Pisa. Wow that is amazing especially for the openess and greeness surrounding the Leaning tower, the Cathedral of St Mary from 1064 and the Baptiste founded in 1152. It was so nice to have room to move here with all the tourists. Des climbed the 300 steps in the tower and took pics from the top with a 79 yr old from our tour. The Baptiste is round and 2 people chanted inside in and there beautiful voices resonated around the walls which gave such a wonderful and errie sound. In there, Des climbed the 100 marble steps to look down on the inside at me.
We drove back to the hotel to get ready to go to a Ecrution (think that was the order anyway) Monastry where 6 Benedictine Monks and 4 Ecrution Monks still live as in the 1300's completely away from the outside world and as a silent order. We had a guide take us inside and explain how they lived and warned us not to talk to them should we see them. What a huge honour that was to see that and be allowed in at all. We then went over the road to a building that was once owned by the monks as a Pharmacy and is now owned by a very wealthy but very strange Italian man who runs it as a restaurant, for our dinner. The owner met us at the bus and looked all the women up and down in a very lusty way which scared many of us, Valda included, half to death. Later, we he came around to take our orders we realised, he was only acting. He continued to do that all night, choosing ladies to dance with to the live music and learing down their tops. According to his waiters, who were probably his sons, he had been quite harmless for at least 30 years. Every so often, they sent him out to give us all a break. Once we all realized he was mearly acting, we all got into the swing of it and thoroughly enjoyed his antics and also the Baritone who entertained us as well. The Tuscan dinner with Chianti was spectacular and we even danced the night away . This was all in complete contrast to the Monastry just across the road. A night we shall not forget I am sure.

Posted by RitchieOE 11:55 Comments (0)


OMG Wonderful Italy

OK - Few and far between internet stations so this is extremely condensed. We arrived in Milan after a 12 1-2 hr flight from Singapore which was fine. Just dont try to sit down to have a cup of coffee and certainly dont expect a plate with your pastry or you will get told off in no
uncertain terms. This was our first introduction to Italy. Off to Rome 4 hours later and here we were met by the tour bus and taken to our quaint hotel which really was quite unique and sweet. There are 43 people on the tour from Canada, England, Oz, USA and NZ so a good and friendly mix. Our cute Italian tour guide, Mattia is excellent. 30, single and 7 days into the tour I have noticed he has maori tattoos. He has quietly told me he has them all over his body. I have asked for a viewing on the last day...... mmmmmm

That night we had a trip to the Spanish Steps and Trivoli fountain before going to a true Italian dinner with live music playing for us, a rose for the ladies, given by the owner, complete with a kiss on the cheek and singing of Italian songs. The 3 piece band were accompanied by Des very often and the tour members soon got to know Des and I because of this. We finished that night with a trip in the bus to see the colosseum by night. More of Rome on our final 2 days.

Next morning we were off to stay for 4 nights in the Tuscany region at Poggibonsi to do day trips to the area. Got to go to dinner now so will continue when ever I am next at the internet.

Just letting you all know we are having the time of our lives but also realizing just how wonderful New Zealand is and how lucky we are to live there. If only we had this history though.

Bye for now.

Posted by RitchieOE 09:58 Comments (0)

Finally on our trip


Day 1 Flew to Singapore with Lisa, Anton and Jenna surprising me at the airport to say good bye. Great flight even though it was the longest we have ever had. Singapore Airlines is wonderful. When we got there, customs checked our bags as I had in my checked in luggage, not my carry on luggage, a little travel sewing kit with the tiniest pair of scissors imaginable and they were convinced it was a huge knife. Then the Singapore Stopover very young and I'm sure, very inexperienced but very officious 2 young women typed in the wrong codes for our singapore stop over free vouchers to several sites and told us our agent had got it all wrong and we had to pay for everything. When I became grumpy, they backed down and realized they were in the wrong and gave us the deals with many apologies.

Day 2 34 degrees humidity and 100% humidity - felt like we were in a sauna when outside. Finally found the stops for the free hop on hop off bus and we were away! The Singapore Flyer is amazing - not to be missed. Such a wonderful site to see all of Singapore to Indonesia and Malaysia from it. You can get your bearings We now know what we will get on the London Eye. Next free attraction - the bumboat tour and commentary about old Singapore. Very good and quite relaxing with a breeze to cool us down to. At night was the Night Safari Tour and a wonderful commentary by a lovely guide all the way there on the bus. That evening was truly wonderful seeing all the nocturnal animals.

Day 3 Lovely breakfast at the hotel. Raining but off to Battle Box Museum for another free attraction. The walk through the tropical park in the rain was fantastic - so lush and green. This is the bunker that the English surrendered to the Japanese from in 1941. The was figures are so lifelike. We thoroughly recommend this if you go to Singapore. It was probably our best highlight apart from the Singapore Flyer. Rain stopped but humidity even worse and we were pretty foot sore so off for another cruise on the river with Hippo tours - another freeby also relaxing. Finally, on our way to Italy (to Milan first) this time for 12 hours again with Singapore Airlines that lovely airline who looks after everyone even during the night while they are trying to sleep. They keep checking everyone and giving any passengers still awake drinks constantly. A huge flight but we did get a little sleep so were ready for Italy at 6.15 am. By the time we get back to Nz, we will have 6 prs of travel socks, 6 toothbrushes and 6 wee toothpastes in 6 travel bags. Cool eh. Italy here we come. Yay

Posted by RitchieOE 09:29 Comments (1)

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