PICTURE PERFECT // Venice, Italy

 

I suppose Venice has been the real last ‘holiday’ destination for me, as our next stop is Frankfurt (which I visited wayyyy back when). It has been a fantastic last destination: it is just as beautiful as I could have ever imagined.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We arrived about mid afternoon on a train from Florence, and after successfully navigating our way to our accommodation we headed off to a free walking tour of the city. It is such a fascinating city, and unfortunately we didn’t learn as much about the construction of it as I would have liked on the tour. It was still great to be able to mindlessly follow a guide through the city: despite having no cars, the city is such a veritable maze of bridges, lane ways and canals!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We were lucky to have some sunshine that afternoon. The tour ended in St Mark Square, out the front of the famous basilica. It was a truly beautiful building. We visited the interior today, but you couldn’t take photos inside!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Today we marked down a few things on our map and hit the streets. It is so fun to just wander around this city!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We visited a fresh food and fish market in the morning near the Rialto bridge, before indulging in some more wonderful 1.50 euro coffee. It is taking us awhile to get our heads around the Italian coffee culture. You buy coffee at a ‘bar’, and can pay the normal, cheaper price for your drink if you stand at the bar and drink it, or pay up to twice the price to sit down at a table. We have had a few incidents where we have started walking towards a table with our coffee but had the barista warn us we will have to pay more!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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On our adventures we searched for, and successfully found, a bookshop our tour guide mentioned to us. Many of the books in the over crowded shop are housed in boats in preparation for the floods the city occasionally experiences. Out the back the owners have constructed a staircase out of damaged books that visitors can climb.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Below is the ‘Sighing Bridge’, which connects the Duke’s house and the former prison. Legend has it prisoners would sigh deeply as they were escorted into internal cells.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Gondola rides are typically Venetian in the minds of tourists, but Chris and I decided we would not partake in it the second we heard about the 80 euro for 40 minutes price tag. Instead, we opted for a short traghetto ride. Basically, for 2 euro each we got a short ride in a gondolla across the main canal. It satisfied our desires to get on the water, but without the pain for our wallets!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We climbed up a carpark for some views over the city. Unfortunately it was a lot colder today, and quite overcast so the city wasn’t as picture perfect. It was beautiful nonetheless.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Rialto bridge at night.

Only three nights left in Europe! It still feels so surreal, but our time is almost up. I am trying to prepare myself for the plane ride home. I am really not looking forward to it, as my flight anxiety seems to have progressively got worse since being in Europe. The idea of being in a plane for 14 hours is awfully unappealing right now. But thankfully I will be flying with Chris, so it shouldn’t be too unbearable!

– Reanna.

THESE LAST DAYS // Florence, Italy

It is such a weird feeling to be counting down the days until we return back to Australia now. Foreign concepts such as sunshine, warm weather and good coffee will soon be a reality in our lives again.

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That doesn’t mean we aren’t enjoying our remaining days here in Europe. After the hustle and bustle of touristic Rome, Florence seemed peaceful. We caught an early morning train from Rome yesterday, and got to Florence with plenty of time ahead of us. We only booked for one night, but we easily managed to see everything we wanted. The main attraction of the town is the Duomo, which is probably the most stunning church I have ever seen. It was free to wander around inside, but you could pay to climb the dome. The price tag was a bit excessive for us, so we made do with wandering around outside. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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While being significantly quieter than Rome, Florence was still full of tourists, and consequently selfie stick vendors.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We spent most of the afternoon just wandering the streets. There are plenty of museums and galleries in Florence, but with the sun out we really just felt like being outside. We eventually climbed up to a viewing square with amazing sights of the city. Another basilica was located further up the hill, as well as an extravagant old graveyard. Some of the tombs could have passed as mini palaces! SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Florence would probably have to be up there with one of the most beautiful towns I have been to. The small laneways, old buildings, and surrounding mountains were truly picturesque. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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After some coffee and rest we decided to go to the Uffizi gallery. It is the most famous collection of art here in Florence, and the building itself is quite spectacular.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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After our early start to the day we were quite tired in the evening, so settled down for a dinner of aperitivo (buy a drink and get access to a food buffet, usually about 8 euro) before camping down at our hotel for the night.

Today, we are off to Venice! We are both incredibly excited to see this famous city, despite warnings about the likelihood of us getting lost and the expensive price tag. It shall be fun!

– Reanna.

AUSTRALIA DAY ABROAD // Rome, Italy

As well as waking up early in order to fight the crowds at the Colosseum, Chris and I also had hopes of catching the final songs of the Hottest 100. However, it turns out the countdown runs for far longer than we anticipated, so we ended up giving up after a few songs in order to make the most of our time in Rome! Admittedly it did bring a pang of homesickness to my heart seeing everyone quaffing beer and blasting Triple J on facebook. Oh, Australia.

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Even though we were a bit later than the 8:30am opening time, we still managed to get into the Colosseum without waiting. It truly is a magnificent structure, and such a feat for its time.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Our ticket to the Colosseum also gave us access to the Roman Forum, which are the ruins of the old city centre just over the road. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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It was amazing seeing so much history preserved in a buzzing city. I can’t imagine the amount of maintenance that must go into these places. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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After a couple of hours we had our historical ruin desires met, and continued on for a bit more walking before settling down somewhere for lunch.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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It was such a splendid day. Still not overly warm, but the sun was shining nonetheless. After lunch we walked over to the Vatican City, intending to check out the basilica. However, the line to get in was absolutely ludicrous (like, we would have been waiting an hour or something). So we made do with wandering around the square in the sun for a little while.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We intended to find a park in the afternoon, but subsequently had no luck in finding it. It was lovely to merely wander around the streets anyway. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Research informed us of a Scottish pub hosting a little Aussie shindig, so we headed there in the late afternoon. They had Fosters – apparently Australia’s number one beer, despite the fact no one drinks it – and vegemite sandwiches. There was basically no one there, but it was fun to have a few drinks and watch the Australian Open on tv.

Hope you all had a fabulous – and warm – Australia Day back in Aus!

– Reanna.

SELF GUIDED TOUR // Rome, Italy

 

The last leg of our journey has begun! We are spending five nights traveling up through Italy, before flying back to Frankfurt for our flight back to Australia. It has all come up so soon!

Once again I will have to apologise for posting a couple of times in quick succession: I intended to post these photos yesterday morning but we had an early start in order to fight the crowds at the Colosseum!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We arrived in Rome about mid afternoon on Sunday, and after checking into our accommodation we decided to hit the sites straight away! Armed with a map and our Lonely Planet guide – there are no Sandemans tours in Italy! – we checked out various landmarks, basilicas and buildings.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAll the various buildings we looked at were incredibly grand, and quite beautiful.

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Quite a few fountains were still running, which was a nice change from the many that were turned off in other cities for the winter weather. However, Trevi Fountain – the most famous fountain in Rome – was under some serious maintenance, so you could hardly even see it! Thankfully a friend had warned us this would be the case, so we weren’t too bitterly disappointed when we came across it.

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Winter seems to be peak time for a lot of maintenance on various landmarks. The basilica atop the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum also had scaffolding on them at varying points. This can be a bit disappointing – particularly when you pay money to go into things such as the Colosseum, and can’t visit all of the exhibit but you have still paid full price. However, I do understand that in order for us to be able to visit such pieces of history, there needs to be a lot of maintenance work done!

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There is a ridiculous amount of street vendors walking around armed with selfie sticks, which they try to sell to everyone who crosses their path by saying “selfie, selfie!”. Yeah, no thanks.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We walked into the Pantheon and wandered around for about two minutes before an announcement came over saying it was closing time and we all had to leave. Well, at least we got in there!

Chris and I were both pleasantly surprised with how walkable the city was. Looking at the map and talking to our friend gave us the impression that we would probably have to figure out the metro at some point, but we were easily able to walk everywhere. I love when we can do that in a city!

– Reanna.

WEEKEND GETAWAY PART 2 // Milan, Italy

After our day of wandering around Geneva, we headed to the train station to head off to Milan. Organising transport between these two cities was honestly the biggest nightmare. There was next to nothing available, and when I did finally find this train it cost a ridiculous amount to catch. And it was four hours. And when I didn’t think things could get worse, the ticket inspector told me my receipt for the ticket on my phone couldn’t be accepted, as I was meant to have printed out the ticket at a station in Italy. He was about to make us buy new tickets, but I refused, and in classic me style started crying. I think sympathy won over and they let us off, with a warning.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter eventually arriving out our AirBNB at midnight, and a much needed night of sleep, we were treated to a freshly made breakfast by our wonderful hosts. They also sent us off on our day with a map and a variety of sights to see highlighted. We walked past the church housing the Last Supper (Da Vinci), but our hosts has told us viewing was booked out until December. Sheesh.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOur next stop was Sforza Castle. Despite being beautiful, my highlight was probably seeing all the stray cats in the moat. Initially we saw one, then another one, and then they were just everywhere.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe has no ambitions of running around the city, so we strolled through a park before sitting down for a coffee. Coffee was so ridiculously cheap, so we were far too excited. There are no lattes here though. If you order a latte, you will just get milk – turns out it is the Italian word for it!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe main attraction of Milan is Europe’s third biggest church, the Duomo. The square was bustling with tourists, and people trying to sell you bracelets and scarves. You have to have your bag checked in order to enter, and an official of the church also took one look at my uncovered legs and said I couldn’t go in. After a bit of angry eye rolling on my behalf, it was negotiated I could enter by fashioning a longer skirt by tying Chris and my cardigans around my waist. Needless to say, the atheist and feminist in me was fuming.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt was magnificent inside, but for some reason all my photos were blurred. So enjoy one of the floor.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLunch time saw us hunting for Italian pasta. We found a little restaurant and sat down, ready to indulge in our carbs. And cheese. It was delicious, to say the least.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe back streets of Milan were a maze of beautiful lane ways lined with the designer shops that give the city it’s reputation as a fashion capital. The above gallery was also bursting with Louis Vuitton and Gucci.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFor dinner we followed our host’s advice and headed down to the canals. The canals were actually empty for cleaning (there is some expo happening in town next year) so they weren’t exactly picturesque. A friend of mine in Prague had informed me about Milan’s “happy hour”, which means buying a drink and indulging in an all-you-can eat buffet. This fit the bill perfectly. We ended up opting for a special deal where Chris and I got to share this ridiculous cocktail bowl with our dinner. Yes, the passionfruit is on fire.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe spent the remainder of the night chatting and having a few drinks, while trying to ignore the street sellers approaching us constantly to buy roses or other worthless knick knacks.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe next day we made our way back into the city and visited an art gallery near Duomo. I am never sure whether you can take photos in galleries or not, so I kept it safe and only snapped this photo of the stairwell. The building itself was magnificent, sometimes even putting the art to shame.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe still had yet to fulfil all our Italian food criteria, so we hunted down a pizzeria for lunch. It was, of course, delicious, as well as being completely different to your old Mr Pizza back home. Despite our bodies desperately crying for a bowl of spinach, we persevered for our last food goal: gelato. We chose raspberry, coconut and pistachio, and they were good choices.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen it was time for me to head off the airport. My poor decision to go for a budget airline saw me catching a bus an hour out of the city to even get to the airport. But, somehow I made it home in one piece.

It was such a great weekend, and I had so much fun exploring new cities with Chris. It almost changes the entire experience of travelling when you are with someone else. As good as it was travelling by myself at the start of my trip, I think I enjoy having someone to share some of my experiences with.

– Reanna.