Rome, Florence & Venice

by Tina Louise on

Rome, Florence, and Venice. All three cities evoke images of the Great Roman Empire resplendent with emperors, olive branches, chariots, gladiators, artists, gondoliers, and all things romantic.

With a visit to these three wonderful places, I am forced to pick and choose what I tell you about as there is too much to place in a short blog or article. Let’s start with Venice.

Venice

I last visited Venice on Easter Sunday and came away with a less than impressed view. Most shops were closed and it was blustery and crowded. With this trip, it was no longer cold but remained full of tourists. To be truthful, it was hot. August in Italy is hot. Wait, let me rephrase that. It is HOT! If you are thinking of visiting during summer break, don’t let this stop you but be prepared.

The water was turquoise with boats of every shape and size to be seen. Taxis with wooden tops whose customers sipped Champaign, gondolas filled with families and couples cuddled together despite the heat, water busses filled to the brim with locals and tourists alike. All were enjoying the sights and sounds of Venice. Flower boxes were filled with blossoms of every color and type and the docks were overflowing with those seeking that which Venice offered. It really was a beautiful sight.

As this was not my first visit, I had a good idea of what to expect from the city tour but I always learn something new each time. Explore Europe provides these tours and I use them to get aquainted with the city and decide where I want to spend my time later in the day. Once the tour was over, I chose to browse narrow streets to see what was available in the not so crowded areas. By wandering north, I happened upon an area inhabited by locals that did not have souvenir shops or trinkets being hawked by street vendors. Instead I found a lovely sea side view of boats and islands with the breeze keeping me cool as I sat under a tree and enjoyed the quiet. Locals were sitting around playing cards and gardening. Workers with their crane boats and dumpsters afloat all around working as though it is a normal way of life for everyone to work on the water. Gas pumps on the seaside were in use for workers to fill up and grandmothers were watching their grandchildren play in small courtyards.

After sitting for a while watching the locals I ventured into the interior again and enjoyed shops with high end and economical wares, glass from Murano and beads from Indonesia. I wandered back to St Mark’s Cathedral and looked in awe at the walls and ceilings of the church. It was a wonderful, relaxing way to start a weekend away. My next stay will hopeful include an overnight in Venice as I would love to see a sunset and the lights on the water. Maybe I will take in an opera.

Rome

All cities pale in comparison to Rome. You can feel and see the history on every street with cars driving through arches that date to the peak of the Roman Empire. Ruins that run over nine meters below the current street level hold countless untold stories and treasures. The guide on for this tour likened Rome to lasagna. It was built layer upon layer until you reach the current top.

Rome has horrible traffic and those that drive in the city should be certified mad. Two lane roads become four lanes without benefit of lines as drivers try to get from place to place. Taxis abound and busses clog the cities arteries. There is no way to do it any other way as with each attempt to make a subway or train station, ruins are found. Ruins cannot be built upon and the city sits with high congestion. The city center though has pedestrian areas and is walkable. I highly recommend walking. Unless you get blisters like I did (poor shoe choice), then a taxi is a good option.

With the traffic being part of the charm (we are calling it that for now) of the city, you just need to walk to see former forums, homes, streets and all things ancient. Some ruins allow visitors to walk within the site and touch fabric that made up a city over 2,000 years old. You can sit under a monolith from Egypt that was appropriated during conquests or see monuments to leaders long dead. Parks and green spaces sit all over the city and overlook sites that would keep a history buff captive for hours or days; maybe even years.

I was lucky enough to go through two Basilicas and see the architecture and embellishment. The most impressive for me was St Peter’s Basilica. It was a long queue and hot in the sun but worth the hour waiting to see this amazing structure. Former Pope’s were honored and sarcophagi were everywhere along with the burial site of Peter, Christ’s Apostle. When I walk into a Cathedral in any country it always surprises me at how quiet it is inside but this one was held with reverence and quiet by hundreds within it’s walls. The stained glass, marble, high vaulted ceiling and beauty were breathtaking. People of all cultures, colors, and social status were standing in this work of art and amazed. I am waxing poetic but it really was breathtaking.

The feel of the city has me in love. All things pale next to Rome.

Florence

Florence is a work of art unto itself. As the home of the Renaissance art revolution there is so much to see. Artists still sit on steps and paint or draw for the masses and for themselves. Our tour guide loved his city but had definitive political views about it’s current government that had me laughing on the inside. It would be rude to laugh outright.

The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is an amazing structure with a market built on the walkway itself and full of jewelers; along with some illegal merchants that had the habit of packing up and leaving the moment the police made their presence known. The David is on display in one of many museums but I did not have the pleasure of seeing it with this trip. (Next time!) A copy stands in a large courtyard along with so many statues that you may believe you have been transported to the mythological kingdom of Zeus.

Again, it was hot. Florence is already knows as a city with heat in the summer but this was almost shocking. Believe me when I tell you that August in Italy will sweat that extra weight off. Water is your friend. It did give me reason to eat a lot of Gelato. Banana, mango, and lemon were all enjoyed. I highly recommend the lemon.

Take aways:

Venice:

  1. Sit by the water side and enjoy the breeze.
  2. See St. Mark’s Cathedral. It is free and an amazing work of art itself.
  3. See the Doge’s Palace if time allows. It can take a while if you are an art fan.

Florence:

  1. Walk the Ponte Vecchio bridge and look into the jewelers shops.
  2. Visit the David. You can see him twice as a replica in front of the Palazzo della Signoria in a courtyard filled with other statues from true life and mythology. The amount in one square is impressive. Then visit the original at the Accadamia Museum.
  3. Have your portrait drawn at the open air Ufizzi Gallery. This is also a great place to sit for a moment and people watch.

Rome:

  1. Rome is a city that needs multiple visits to feel like you have scratched the surface.
  2. Enjoy the ruins and be in awe at the challenges the city has with transportation.
  3. You may want to invest in the Roma Card or purchase your tickets to the Colosseum and Forum in advance. Lines can be a headache and waste a lot of time.

Italy:

  1. Be prepared for heat in Italy if you travel in late summer.
  2. Take your time. There is so much to see but enjoy what is in front of you. Don’t give a cursory glance at a piece of art just to run to the next one.
  3. Eat Gelato. There is no comparison to Gelato in Italy. None. Ever.
  4. All regions are beautiful but different with unique vibes. Do not expect them to be the same just because they are all in Italy.
  5. Wear well-worn shoes. If not, take a taxi.

 

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